Los Angeles authorities plan to stop turning over some illegal immigrants to federal authorities for deportation.
The police department will no longer honor requests from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) to detain illegal immigrants arrested for low-level, nonviolent crimes such as creating a public nuisance or driving without a license. It will, though, comply with such requests involving felony arrests or gang membership.
Under the Secure Communities initiative, fingerprints sent by the local police departments to the FBI are passed on to the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees the ICE, and checked against its databases. The LAPD now honors all ICE detainer requests that could lead to deportation, but that will change with the new policy expected to take effect at the start of the year.
Like many other police chiefs and sheriffs around the country, L.A. Police Chief Charlie Beck said the program has eroded trust between police and the immigrant community. It is hoped the change will help rebuild the trust.
L.A.s action follows California Gov. Jerry Browns veto of legislation that would have done the same thing on a statewide basis.
Chicago has adopted an ordinance barring police officers from turning over to federal authorities illegal immigrants who do not have serious criminal convictions or outstanding criminal warrants. Cook County, Ill., last year adopted a similar ordinance limiting cooperation with federal authorities, which is being challenged by the Obama administration.
The Cook County and Los Angeles response limits local cooperation, but the administration has also taken aggressive action against Arizona and other states for going too far by imposing added illegal immigration enforcement measures that are considered a federal prerogative.
An illegal immigrant in some jurisdictions then might walk free on the same offense that could be reason to detain and deport the same immigrant in a different city or county. Such is the uncertainty and unequal application of federal laws that will persist until the country can reach a consensus on reforming immigration policy.