The way Los Angeles Sheriff Lee Baca implemented the controversial Secure Communities program goes way beyond what the federal government requires. It probably also borders the limits of unconstitutionality, detaining and even denying the right to bail that the law grants to allegedly deportable detainees.
At least that is what a lawsuit filed on Friday by the ACLU and immigrant advocacy groups says. This has also been apparent for a long time here in the county.
The Sheriff’s Department has accepted that at least part of the lawsuit was right. When they received a letter announcing the legal action, they reacted by issuing an internal directive guaranteeing bail would not be denied to detainees even if Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) had requested a hold in order to investigate their possible “illegal status.” One of the plaintiffs is a British filmmaker who was imprisoned for 89 days because of an ICE hold, despite the fact that a judge approved his bail and he was in the country legally.
The federal government should not be able to order local police departments to detain anyone beyond the time a criminal investigation requires. At any rate, its regulations clarify that an immigration hold should be no longer than 48 hours. Sheriff Lee Baca of Los Angeles has demonstrated extreme zeal in holding anyone who -correctly or incorrectly- ICE indicates as possibly deportable. This shows that the policy known as Secure Communities -which as President Obama said during a recent debate, aims mainly to detain “gang bangers” and other criminals- corrupts the judicial system more than it benefits the enforcement of immigration law.
This is one more proof that Gov. Jerry Brown should not have vetoed the Trust Act, which would have protected non-criminals and crime victims from excessively zealous enforcement of Secure Communities. And from the program itself, which contributes to violating the rights of thousands of people in this country.