Wall Street Journal (California)
By Alejandro Lazo
March 22, 2017
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti on Tuesday restricted city employees from cooperating with federal immigration officials and instructed police at the ports and airports to refrain from investigating a person’s immigration status.
The directive expands to other city agencies the existing policies of the Los Angeles Police Department—which since 1979 has prohibited officers from determining immigration status. Since 2014, the LAPD has also refused to honor requests from federal immigration officials to detain illegal immigrants arrested for nonviolent crimes.
The move is the latest by a Democratic mayor to institute policies aimed at countering President Donald Trump’s immigration enforcement policies. Police chiefs and Democratic mayors have argued that city police forces need to be separated from the duties of civil immigration enforcement to build trust between police and immigrants. Mr. Trump has said such policies foster lawlessness.
This week, the Trump administration sought to ramp up pressure on cities that offer protection to illegal immigrants, known as sanctuary cities, by publicly releasing details of cases in which local police released undocumented immigrants that federal officials had asked them to detain.
The conflict is particularly acute in California where legislators are considering a bill to create a sanctuary state, and San Francisco is suing the Trump administration over an order to cut off federal funds to sanctuary cities.
Last week, Tani Cantil-Sakauye, the chief justice of the California Supreme Court, wrote a letter to the Trump administration saying she is concerned about reports that “immigration agents appear to be stalking undocumented immigrants in our courthouses to make arrests.” In the letter, she asked the agents to stop the practice.
The mayor’s directive applies to airport police, who patrol Los Angeles International Airport, and port police, who secure one of the nation’s largest container ports.
Mr. Garcetti signed the directive, which also applies to the Los Angeles Fire Department, on the same day that Los Angeles Police Department Chief Charlie Beck said reports of sexual assault and domestic violence by Latinos had fallen this year, potentially over fear that police interaction could lead to deportation.
Sexual-assault reports dropped 25% among Latinos and reports of domestic violence fell 10%, the chief said.
“Los Angeles law enforcement officials’ suggestion that expanded immigration enforcement has contributed to a recent decline in the reporting of certain types of crimes is entirely speculative and irresponsible,” a statement from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said.
The immigration agency said the idea that the “agency’s execution of its mission is undermining public safety is outrageous and wrongheaded. In fact, the greater threat to public safety is local law enforcement’s continuing unwillingness to honor immigration detainers,” the ICE statement said. “Rather than transferring convicted criminal aliens to ICE custody as requested, agencies, including the Los Angeles Police Department, are routinely releasing these offenders back onto the street to potentially reoffend, and their victims are often other members of the immigrant community.’’
Tuesday’s directive also calls on the heads of Los Angeles city services agencies to “foster a welcoming atmosphere for all regardless of immigration status” and declared any information agencies gather about a person’s immigration status as confidential.
“No one in Los Angeles should live in fear of being taken from their home or separated from their family,” Mr. Garcetti said.
Mr. Garcetti, who was re-elected to a second term last month, has been under pressure from immigrant-rights and civil-rights groups to embrace the term sanctuary city and take further steps to protect the city’s immigrant population.
In a January interview on NPR, Mr. Garcetti said the city “never declared ourself a sanctuary city. I’m still not sure what one is.”
—Laura Meckler and Zusha Elinson contributed to this article.
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