Los Angeles

Sheriff: Bill Puts City and County Cops at Odds Over Interaction With Federal Immigration Agents

Chanting a familiar chant but fighting a new fight in downtown LA, immigrant rights groups, faith leaders and day laborer organizations argued against LA County Sheriff Jim McDonnell's opposition of Senate Bill 54.

SB54, authored by State Senator Kevin DeLeon, would restrict state and local resources from assisting in deportation efforts of the federal government.

"We deserve more, we deserve dignity and respect," said Yamilex, a Guatamalan immigrant with deferred action status in California under DACA, who applauds the bill. "And to know the sheriff wants to take that away, to take away my safety, is so heartbreaking."

But McDonnell, in a letter to Senator DeLeon obtained by NBC4, writes that his worry lies solely on the safety of the county's residents. In the letter, the sheriff writes that if he can't safely arrange for federal agents to take certain criminals into custody, he's worried it would lead to a larger net cast over the community, "apprehending and detaining those not originally the target of enforcement actions."

"The result," he writes, would be "complete and total loss of trust and cooperation with any law enforcement agency."

That trust may already be an issue in Los Angeles. LAPD Chief Charlie Beck announced Tuesday that crime reporting in Latino neighborhoods is down for 2017. He cites 25 percent less reporting for sexual assaults and 10 percent less reporting of domestic violence cases in the Latino community. But Beck agrees with SB54, partly because he says his department had conversations with lawmakers about its concerns over keeping violent criminals in custody.

"We have come to some agreement that those criminals are not protected by it," Chief Beck said. "That was the only issue we had."

But McDonnell's issues with the bill have yet to be addressed, even with new revisions of the legislation.

"He's insinuating the same hate messages towards our communities and we need to stand together," Yamilex said, believing McDonnell's message sides with the Trump Administration's call for the arrest of certain undocumented immigrants.

"First and foremost, I'm a human being and I deserve respect," she said. "And the fact that I can be deported any day back home to where I came running from is heartbreaking."

Members of the non-profit National Day Laborers Organizing Network (NDLON) also called out the sheriff for his opposition, believing the sheriff is fighting to keep federal funds President Trump threatened to take away - while mobilizing other sheriff's departments in the state to help kill the bill.

"It's exactly that kind of threat that we need to break the connection of the Sheriff and ICE all together," said NDLON attorney Chris Newman.

"Some people call it a Sanctuary State Bill, some call it a wall between California and Trump's deportation force," he said. "Whatever you call it, it's legislation required to protect California residents from the threat posed by the Trump Administration."

LA Mayor Eric Garcetti again voiced his support of SB54. He says it puts into practice at the state level what LA has been doing for four decades and that LA will not change its values over Trump's threats of losing federal funding.

"It is time for action," Garcetti said. "To fix a broken system."

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