Los Angeles County sheriff’s staff would assume a greater role in the processing and deportation of illegal immigrants identified in the jails under a newly proposed agreement with the federal government, placing an “inordinate strain” on department staff, according to a new report.
The department signed an agreement with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in 2005 authorizing its custody assistants to check the immigration status of foreign born inmates.
The new agreement would require those same assistants to complete all of the required paperwork to process illegal immigrants for possible deportation, according to the report prepared by Merrick Bobb, a special counsel to the L.A. County Board of Supervisors.
The degree to which the proposed agreement turns the sheriff’s department into the “primary enforcer of federal immigration law is indeed breathtaking,” Bobb wrote in the nearly 50-page report. In addition, the county would not be reimbursed for the additional work, Bobb wrote.
More than a quarter of inmates transferred from the county lock-up to immigration custody from July 2008 to June 2009 had been charged with minor crimes, such as displaying a false identification or disorderly conduct, the report found. Some inmates had serious criminal records, but Bobb wrote that he didn’t believe that the supervisors intended for minor criminals to be turned over to immigration authorities.
“Some of the supervisors suggested that immigration enforcement in the jails should be limited to the more dangerous criminals committing felonies, in contrast to persons held for traffic violations or other minor misdemeanors,” Bobb said in an interview today.