In a 3-to-2 vote, Los Angeles County supervisors voted to cancel a 2005 agreement with Immigration and Customs Enforcement and release 12 deputies from duty.
Those deputies, stationed at LA County jails, were trained by ICE and had been able to take undocumented inmates into custody before their release to the general public. Tuesday’s vote cancels that contract, known as "287-G," and puts that decision entirely in the hands of the LA County Sheriff.
Nearly 100 people signed up to give public comment at the Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday. Most spoke of personal struggles either because their loved one was deported or because their loved one died at the hands of an undocumented immigrant.
Jamiel Shaw, Sr. spoke about his teenage son, who died in 2008 in South LA. Shaw says he learned after the shooting that the man convicted of the crime was in the country illegally and had been released from jail on another charge only 24 hours before killing his son.
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"My son would’ve been alive today," Shaw told the five-member board. "I wouldn’t be here if 287-G was enforced. We don’t want to hear about the sob stories of illegal aliens here working and doing the right thing because that’s not true. Ask people like me, whose family members are in the ground while illegal aliens get privilege for the American dream."
Various immigrant rights groups spoke on behalf of immigrant families as well. Included in that was Dolores Huerta from the United Farm Workers of America Union.
"There are so many people that we know that should not be deported," Huerta said as she applauded the board’s decision. "And what this does when they are deported, it really breaks up the families."
But tensions were high inside and outside the board room. While the board threatened to kick out a group chanting "ICE out of LA," another father spoke sharply at pro-immigrant groups outside, saying undocumented immigrants commit crimes that otherwise would not have happened.
Supervisors Hilda Solis and Mark Ridley-Thomas co-sponsored the motion, only Michael Antonovich and Don Knabe voted against it.
"This will allow for the Sheriff to negotiate with DHS and ICE regarding when ICE agents, if necessary, can come in and interview," Solis explained, adding that she appreciated the Sheriff’s Department’s willingness to cooperate.
In place of 287-G, the board approved 4-to-1 to adopt the federal Priority Enforcement Program (PEP), which will allow for the jails to alert ICE if an inmate is eligible for deportation based on the inmate’s fingerprint matches.
LA County Sheriff Jim McDonnell released the following statement:
"The Sheriff’s Department is responsible for helping people in their time of need and investigating crimes that have occurred, regardless of the individual’s immigration status. In achieving those objectives, our Department must work closely and cooperatively with federal authorities to identify and assist with the lawful investigation and prosecution of undocumented persons who pose a danger to our community; we must also bear in mind at all times the importance of preserving community relationships as well as the due process rights of those in our custody.
I welcome the opportunity to work with local, state and federal leaders as we develop policies and procedures that appropriately balance both promoting public safety and fortifying trust within the multiethnic communities that make up Los Angeles County. To that end, we are aiming to work with the Board offices, DHS and others to develop procedures and policies to identify the offenses that best reflect individuals in LASD custody who are a serious danger to our community and impact public safety. As to those individuals, we will work with federal authorities to notify them in advance and help facilitate a timely and seamless transfer to ICE custody prior to the individual’s release into the community.
The Sheriff’s Department must partner with some of the most diverse and immigrant-rich communities in the world. Serving the community, reducing crime and solving problems is immeasurably harder if law enforcement fails to maintain relationships with -- and the trust of -- our community. This is a basic principle of community policing."
A spokesperson for the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency did not discuss the cancellation of 287-G, but rather commented on the Board’s move to adopt PEP.
"We are pleased that the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors has voted to express its support for the new Priority Enforcement Program. We will continue to work with the Sheriff’s Department and local elected officials to implement PEP in a way that supports community policing and public safety while ensuring that ICE takes custody of dangerous criminals before they are released into the community."
The changes go into effect immediately.