Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell defended his new policy allowing federal immigration officials to question certain jail inmates, saying it was designed to strike a balance between public safety and credibility with the county's immigrant community.
"None of us want somebody released back into the community who's going to continue to reoffend with violent crimes or serious crimes. We want to be able to use all the tools available to us to deal with that" McDonnell said in an interview broadcast on NBC 4 Los Angeles Sunday.
The Sheriff has been criticized by some immigrant rights activists who believe federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents will engage in racial profiling and eventually target all undocumented immigrants in custody for deportation.
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The "California Trust Act" currently prohibits counties from allowing ICE agents to interview low level offenders or holding them past their release date for federal deportation proceedings.
McDonnell says his jail policy complies with the state law saying only inmates accused of violent or serious crimes will be available for ICE agents to question.
"ICE is not roaming the jails as some have put forward. There is a strict protocol in place that has to be met before ICE can interview an inmate," the Sheriff told NBC 4.
"We don't want to create a situation where part of our community is afraid to come forward to the police with a legitimate police interest fearing that we are an extension of ICE. That is not the case."
On another issue, McDonnell blamed AB 109, a stater law allowing for the early release of "non-violent" prison inmates and the voter approved Proposition 47 for an increase in crime statewide.
Prop 47, past last year, downgraded most drug crimes from felonies to misdemeanors. "There aren't the treatment facilities available, and for those that are available people don't want to go there because they don't have the threat of time in the county jail hanging over them.
Rather than being incarcerated or in treatment they are on the street reoffending and thus, crime is going up." McDonnell said.
The Sheriff appeared with United States Attorney Eileen Decker of the Central District of California. Both offices are co-operating in a targeted campaign to reduce violent crime in the city of Compton.
They are also cooperating in a new human sex trafficking task force, a crime which Decker says is on the increase and has become a "priority issue" for the Department of Justice.