Photo by John Schreiber.
Photo by John Schreiber.

The Los Angeles Police Department will not actively help federal officials apprehend immigrants who are in the country illegally and are “low-level offenders,” even in the face of President-elect Donald Trump’s plans to deport up to 3 million immigrants who have committed crimes, Police Chief Charlie Beck said Tuesday.

The department will still cooperate with federal officials if the immigrant in custody has committed a “serious violent crime,” Beck told reporters at City Hall.

But “the use of local law enforcement for general deportation reasons for low-level offenders is not appropriate,” he said.

While not fitting the typical definition of a “sanctuary city” that shields undocumented immigrants from federal officials, Los Angeles has long had a policy of keeping local police work separate from that of federal immigration officials.

Beck said that as a local law enforcement agency, the police department’s primary goal is to ensure the safety of Angelenos, which depends on officers being trusted by the immigrant community.

“Over 500,000 Angelenos, people who live in Los Angeles, are undocumented immigrants,” Beck said. “I need their cooperation. I need them to work with their local police stations. I need them to be witnesses to violent crime. I need them to be part of the fabric of Los Angeles if we are to keep this city safe.”

“For a local law enforcement agency to take on the role of immigration enforcement tears that fabric apart,” he said.

Beck said the department will keep people in custody no longer than the typical 48 to 72 hours, and will not honor requests by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials to detain people longer than that.

Beck said the department takes the position that these types of “ICE detainers have been shown to be illegal.”

The police department, however, will not hide the fact that an undocumented immigrant has been taken into custody, according to Beck.

Beck said the “system by which we run folks nationally for warrants notifies ICE automatically,” so they will still release people to immigration enforcement officials as long as they are in their custody, Beck said.

“If they (ICE officials) call, if they make contact, then we give them the release dates, but we don’t hold people past those release dates,” he said. “And if they bail out, they bail out.”

He said that while it would be a “big deal” if the department’s stance were to result in the city losing out on federal dollars, it will not influence whether he does “the right thing.”

“It’s a matter of principle,” he said. “This is a matter of what … is the core value of the Los Angeles Police Department, which I believe far transcends any other motivation.”

—City News Service

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