Jamiel's Law Gets a Boost

Federal appeals court rules police must report when they believe suspects are illegal immigrations in drug cases

In a ruling that impacts the Jamiel's Law debate in Los Angeles, a federal appeals court has knocked down San Francisco's defense to a lawsuit that accused the city's police force of failing to report to federal authorities when officers suspect someone arrested on serious drug charges "might" be in the United States illegally.

Mayor Gavin Newsom and other officials have repeatedly condemned federal immigration raids on workplaces and on neighborhoods and proclaimed San Francisco a sanctuary city which prompted a private citizen named Charles Fonseca to sue to enforce a state law requiring that police report to federal authorities when they may have reason to believe that someone arrested on felony drug charges is here illegally, according to an article today in L.A.'s Metropolitan News.

The First District Court of Appeal rejected the city's legal defenses in ruling existing state law requires notification in drug cases without requiring local authorities to make the determination of the suspect's legal status.

Fonseca's lawyers argued that a federal study in 2005 found 20 percent of illegal immigrants jailed were arrested for drug offenses and the figure rose to 50 percent among those previously deported.

The ruling, which overturned a lower court decision, sets the stage for evidence about what San Francisco's actual practice is when suspects are arrested and whether police are complying with the law in reporting that suspects are illegals.

In L.A. the illegal immigration issue heated up after the murder in South L.A. this spring of Jamiel Shaw Jr., a high school athlete who was gunned down allegedly by an illegal immigrant gang member who had been released from country jail just hours earlier without his immigration status having been questioned.

The Jamel's Law proposal was drafted by mayoral candidate Walter Moore and has become a cause celebre on talk radio and elsewhere, calling into question the LAP D's Special Order 40 and how its requirement to report people arrested on felony charges has become widely ignored.

Since then, Sheriff Lee Baca has stepped up efforts to inquire about the immigration status of people in county jails and Chief William Brat ton has announced efforts to toughen the LAPD's training of officers with regard to immigration status of criminal suspects.

After months of stalling on demands to hold hearings on Jamiel's Law and similar proposals to crack down on gang members and other criminals suspected of being illegal immigrants, the City Council's Public Safety Committee chaired by City Attorney candidate Jack Weiss is scheduled to hold a hearing next Monday.

The hearing is certain to draw a large audience and heated discussion.

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