The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors this week pushed the U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement (ICE) agency out of its jails, answering immigrant advocates' concern that the county's partnership with the federal immigration agents was eroding immigrants' trust in local police. The supervisors voted 3-2 Tuesday to end a program that allowed ICE agents to work inside county jails so as to review inmates' immigration status and potentially deport them prior to their release from jail.
After ending its cooperation with ICE, the supervisors also voted 4-1 to adopt a jail policy that matches U.S. President Barack Obama administration’s Priority Enforcement Program. That measure puts undocumented immigrants who commit violent or serious crimes at the front of the line for federal deportation. Both measures adopted by the L.A. County officials means ICE officials cannot operate in inmate reception at the Twin Towers Correctional Facility in Lynwood.
While some have applauded the measure, some immigration advocates say the measures don't go far enough. “They presented it as a kinder and gentler way for ICE to collaborate with local police,” Los Angeles County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl told the Los Angeles Times. “I told them it’s not kinder or gentler enough.”
Groups opposed to the supervisors' anti-ICE measures said they feared it could endanger the community by potentially allowing violent immigrants to avoid a rightful deportation order from federal agents. Some families who say their relatives were murdered by illegal or undocumented immigrants vehemently opposed loosening ICE agents' authority at the jail.
Advocates have also said that too many people were deported by ICE officials in Los Angeles County lockup because of minor infractions or long-ago convictions. Most of the 58,500 detainment requests in the current fiscal year haven't targeted people convicted of the most serious crimes, according to the federal agency’s data. There were 16,384 people convicted of committing aggravated felonies and another 14,000 were convicted of misdemeanors. Nearly 21,000 people didn’t fit the three categories that would prioritize their deportation under the Obama administration's measures.
Last November, President Barack Obama announced the enforcement priorities initiative with his executive action that expanded deportation deferrals and extended work permits for millions of undocumented immigrants. A federal judge temporarily halted the program, pending a judicial review of Obama's authority to implement the actions.