Why Aren’t State Police Holding Immigrant Detainees Anymore?

Source: Thinkstock

Source: Thinkstock

Immigration reform isn’t happening anytime soon, and frustrations with this reality at the local level are becoming more and more apparent. The latest symptom can be seen in the Los Angeles Police Department, which is now refusing to hold potentially deportable individuals beyond their sentences unless a judge has reviewed and requested the action.

The refusal is one other cities are echoing and is in large part a response to the federal court decision. The decision took place for an Oregon county this past April where the police department was found to be subject to damages resulting from their prolonged detainment of an inmate in order to send her to Immigrations and Customs Enforcement. Following the ruling, that same month nine Oregon counties ceased holding individuals for deportation purposes, and the refusal has expanded outwards into other states, with LA added to the list just in the last week.

Recent court decisions have raised Constitutional concerns regarding detention by local law enforcement agencies based solely on an Immigration Detainer request from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE),” said a LAPD news release on July 7. “Until this area of the law is further clarified by the Courts, effective immediately the Los Angeles Police Department will no longer honor Immigration Detainer requests,” without Judicial review.

The federal case is only a piece of the immigration problem LAPD is having, embittered by the extra fiscal pressure on a strained department. The police department is following the lead of LA Mayor Eric Garcetti who announced the change to the approval of immigration advocates, according to the Los Angeles Times, saying, “The Federal government is in charge of enforcing federal immigration laws — not us at the local level. And that responsibility can’t be forced onto local law enforcement officials who already have stretched budgets.” Potentially another hint that immigration reform is way behind schedule.   “Washington may be stalling when it comes to immigration reform, but it is within our power here in LA to make a real, on the ground difference in the lives of our residents,” said Garcetti, according to Reuters. The police department has other concerns to look to as well. Not for the first time, the LAPD Chief Charlie Beck emphasized the need for trust and a good relationship with the members of the city, saying that the new policy would make it easier and more likely that people would report crimes, while having no adverse affect on crime in LA. He stated, according to the Los Angeles Times, that having looked at crime rates over the course of the last three years while also dropping detention rates for the ICE there’s evidence to back up this claim.

The ICE, on the other hand, feels differently on the subject, saying that “When law enforcement agencies turn criminals over to ICE rather than releasing them into the community, it enhances public safety and the safety of law enforcement,” in a statement to Reuters.

According to Pew Research Center’s list of the top fifteen immigrant populations in the United States, California ranked at the top for 2o12, and has since 1990 when 21.7 percent of the population was made up of foreign born individuals. In 2000, 26.2 percent were foreign born, and in 2012 27 percent were foreign born, a full 4.3 percent above the next highest ranking — New York. Looking at unauthorized immigrants alone, California remains in the top position, at least as of 2010 statistics from Pew, with Texas just behind. Across the United States illegal immigration has begun to decrease and hold flat more often then not, but the population of illegal immigrants already in the U.S. has been multiplied by three since 1990′s population of 3.5 million — according to Pew.

The recent illegal immigration rate drop is attributable to a few things. Part of the decrease is likely from the economic recession, which cut back on available jobs in key industries that would have incentivized immigration for those looking for work. Another possible explanation that immigration advocates have been very critical of has been President Barack Obama’s stringent deportation policy, which this latest move on the part of the states may cripple in part.

With unaccompanied minors crossing the border in increasing numbers, the April court ruling and its subsequent fallout is just another drop in the bucket of reform dissatisfaction. However, activity in the legislature will need to wait until after the midterms, and may even hold off through 2015 until presidential elections have been dealt with in 2016. That may be an unrealistic degree of pessimism in light of gridlock though, especially considering the amount of public and business pressure Congress has found itself under due to reform hold-ups.

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