Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck has made a very wise decision to only hand over to immigration authorities dangerous undocumented immigrants. This is a big step forward to improve public safety.
When all is said and done, this was actually the original purpose of the federal program, Secure Communities, which coordinates efforts between local law enforcement and the federal Office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)
The program was supposed to focus on the most dangerous criminals. However, because of improvising regulations as well as overly zealous local law enforcement officials, the program ending up deporting a record 400,000 immigrants annually, the vast majority in no way fitting the definition of dangerous criminals.
The problem goes even further. Owing to the program’s poor implementation, the goal of improving security in our communities by deporting dangerous undocumented immigrants ended up doing the opposite. Victims of crimes in immigrant communities were fearful to come forward and report to police because of the possibility that they would be arrested and handed over to ICE and then deported.
This is why the LAPD decided to change its protocols by no longer honoring detainer requests from ICE for detainees with petty offences, those without criminal records, and those who are not documented gang members.
This is the perfect moment for the LAPD to come out with such clarity about its new approach, just days after Governor Brown vetoed the TRUST Act. And, at the same time that Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca continues to insist on helping in the deportation of not dangerous undocumented immigrants.
Beck is showing true leadership with this decision. He is confronting a difficult and complicated intersection of issues, immigration and public safety.
The LAPD chief has demonstrated a stark contrast in principles with these other municipal leaders who seem to lack the clarity to recognize the connections between the issues of immigration policy – at the federal level-, the implementation of a federal program according to its original purpose -at the local level- and the impact of this implementation on public safety.
We hope that the Police Commission and the City Council approve the new LAPD rules and put them in place by the first of January. It would be wonderful if Beck’s decision would be emulated across the state and even the country, because this would benefit of immigrant families and it would also improve public safety.