Los Angeles (AP) – Federal immigration agents will return to Los Angeles County jails on a limited basis to identify deportable inmates under a policy announced Tuesday by Sheriff Jim McDonnell.
The new policy comes after county supervisors voted earlier this year to end a controversial program that allowed Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents to work inside the jails to assess the immigration status of inmates, the Los Angeles Times reported.
ICE agents will now be allowed back inside county jails, but only to interview inmates who have committed serious crimes and who are not protected by the California Trust Act. The 2013 law limits when local law enforcement officials can collaborate with federal immigration authorities.
Under the new rules, jail officials will also notify ICE up to seven days before those inmates are released so immigration agents can pick them up and begin deportation proceedings.
Inmates whose release date is flagged for ICE by the Sheriff's Department will be notified and advised of their right to consult legal counsel. Advocates had requested that protection, according to the Times.
McDonnell, who outlined the new policy in a letter to the Board of Supervisors, said the new procedures balance public safety needs and the concerns of immigrant communities as well as "the equally complex and passionate positions of groups on both sides of the immigration debate."
Immigrant advocates said the policy could lead to racial profiling and increase distrust in law enforcement among immigrant communities.
"It is a policy that entangles local criminal law enforcement with the enforcement of outdated, unjust civil immigration laws," said Pablo Alvarado, director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network.
McDonnell noted that the new policy was drafted after three community meetings attended by nearly 400 people and many private meetings with advocates, immigration officials and other area law enforcement agencies.
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