Are illegal immigrants currently in jail safer there than in the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement? More importantly, are other illegal immigrants and residents of a community safer if these individuals remain in the country?
Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva believes that’s the case — even in the era of COVID-19.
Last week, he announced a permanent moratorium on transferring illegal immigrants who are under ICE detainer to the federal government “based solely on a civil immigration detainer.”
Already this year, Los Angeles County has reportedly refused to release into federal custody over 25,000 illegal immigrants arrested by local police under suspicion of committing crimes.
That number comes from federal data obtained by the Washington Examiner and Fox News. Citing ICE spokesperson Alexx Pons, Fox reported the 25,000 number is based on the figure of detainers filed with Los Angeles County in the 2020 fiscal year.
In its article published on Sunday, meanwhile, the Examiner revealed that 11,000 detainer requests were filed with Los Angeles County by ICE in the 2019 fiscal year.
Of those, roughly 5 percent resulted in an illegal immigrant being turned over to the federal government, and only those because they were the worst offenders in the system. Last week, Villanueva made it clear that his department was no longer going to be transferring those to the custody of ICE.
“There is no greater threat to public safety than a million undocumented immigrants who are afraid to report crime, out of fear of deportation and having their families torn apart,” Villanueva said in a statement titled: “SHERIFF ANNOUNCES PERMANENT BAN ON ICE TRANSFERS.”
“As the Sheriff of Los Angeles County, I am responsible for everyone’s public safety, regardless of immigration status. I will not allow an entire segment of the population to be afraid to report crimes to law enforcement and be forced, again, back into the shadows.
“On April 24, 2020, I placed a moratorium on transfers of qualified inmates from the nation’s largest jail system to ICE during the COVID-19 pandemic. After learning of the pending litigation regarding the conditions in the Adelanto/ICE detention facility and allegations of similar conditions at other ICE facilities, the moratorium will now be permanent and we will no longer transfer individuals to the custody of ICE based solely on a civil immigration detainer. In so doing, we have created a bright line between federal immigration enforcement and local law enforcement in the most populous County in the nation.”
There’s a fatal problem with this logic, however. The Examiner talked to ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations Executive Associate Director Henry Lucero, who noted illegal immigrants who are victims of or witnesses to a crime qualify for a visa in the United States.
In other words, there would be no incentive not to report a crime — a fact Villanueva apparently doesn’t want to appraise the roughly 1 million illegal immigrants he claims are under his jurisdiction of.
“As a federal law enforcement agency, ICE supports all individuals reporting crimes regardless of immigration status in the United States,” Lucero told the Examiner. “It’s very mind-boggling as a career law enforcement official that someone would implement this policy.”
“I believe the greatest threat to public safety are the more than 10 million LA County residents who stand to be victimized due to the release of convicted criminal aliens by law enforcement officials, especially the LA County sheriff’s,” he added.
“This makes it more difficult and more dangerous. Undoubtedly, multiple people will be victimized as a result of this dangerous position.”
At the very least, as Fox News reported, a 2011 ICE policy prohibits removal proceedings against any witness to or victim of a crime.
“Any assertion or claim to the contrary is false, and in this case, seemingly political,” ICE said in a statement to Fox News. “The greatest threat to public safety falls on the more than 10 million Los Angeles County residents who stand to be victimized due to the release of convicted criminal aliens by law enforcement officials.”
And keep in mind, the detainer is a powerful tool that prevents everyone in a community from being targeted.
The subjects of detainer requests are people who — as they pass through the criminal justice system for reasons completely unrelated to their immigration status — are flagged as dangerous, almost always because of pending criminal charges or past convictions. It has nothing to do with simply being an illegal immigrant.
“The detainer asks other law enforcement agencies to notify ICE in advance of an alien’s release, and to maintain custody of that alien for a brief period of time so that our officers can take custody of that person in a safe and secure setting upon release from that agency’s custody,” ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations Los Angeles Field Office Director Dave Marin in a statement last month.
“When a law enforcement agency fails to honor these immigration detainers and releases serious criminal offenders back onto the streets, it undermines our (ICE’s) ability to protect public safety and carry out our national security mission.”
So Villanueva’s “public safety” excuse clearly doesn’t hold water. Another issue with Villanueva’s statement: His belief that the “constitutionally sound judicial warrant system” should be used in place of detainers.
“We will encourage ICE to use the constitutionally sound judicial warrant system, used by all other law enforcement agencies in the nation, to effect legal transfers from Los Angeles County to federal custody,” the statement read.
“The Sheriff’s Department will also continue its work with the District Attorney’s Office by providing the required assurances requested by ICE to ensure that those who have fled to other countries to avoid prosecution will return and stand trial. Violent criminals who prey on our law-abiding communities should be held fully accountable.”
This is also a canard, illegal immigration hawks say. In a September 2019 article, Andrew R. Arthur of the conservative Center for Immigration Studies wrote that “there is no regulatory provision for a federal judge to issue a detainer, let alone a warrant.”
Detainers, he wrote, are handled under sections 236 and 287 of the Immigration and Nationality Act. Arthur quoted 8 Code of Federal Regulations § 287.7: “Detainers are issued pursuant to sections 236 and 287 of the [INA] and this chapter 1. Any authorized immigration officer may at any time issue a Form I-247, Immigration Detainer-Notice of Action, to any other Federal, State, or local law enforcement agency.”
That seems like a bit of legalese. However, Arthur went on to point out that “section 236 of the INA is more general, while section 287 of the INA is more circumscribed and intended for the specific benefit of other federal agencies, states, and localities. Neither of those provisions provides for, or more importantly requires, a ‘judicial warrant’, however.”
And even if there were a “judicial warrant” requirement, it would be almost impossible for the judicial system to keep up with these warrants.
“At its peak in 2011, ICE issued more than 300,000 detainers,” Dan Cadman, a former Immigration and Naturalization Service and ICE official, wrote in a 2018 piece for the CIS after a district court judge ruled that a warrant was necessary for ICE to take custody of an illegal immigrant.
“The number has abated since then — almost certainly because many agents have simply given up filing them in sanctuary jurisdictions — but even with this diminution, the figure is still nearly 150,000. What this obviously means is that, following this rule, U.S. district court judges and magistrates would be burdened overnight with somewhere between a sixth and a third of a million new actions to consider nationally.
“I’ve been unable to find within the statistics of the Administrative Office of the Courts any figures relating to the number of arrest warrants authorized in federal courts, by way of analogy, but I’m guessing that if ICE were to seek the immigration ‘orders’ directed by [the judge in the case], it would probably be a significant percentage of that already-existing workload added onto U.S. district courts nationwide. How, one wonders, would his judicial brethren and sisters react to his unilateral imposition of such a workload on them?”
He also noted that 8 U.S. Code § 1357, which delineates the powers of federal immigration officers, states in plain language that even without a warrant, an immigration officer has the authority “to arrest any alien who in his presence or view is entering or attempting to enter the United States in violation of any law or regulation made in pursuance of law regulating the admission, exclusion, expulsion, or removal of aliens, or to arrest any alien in the United States, if he has reason to believe that the alien so arrested is in the United States in violation of any such law or regulation and is likely to escape before a warrant can be obtained for his arrest, but the alien arrested shall be taken without unnecessary delay for examination before an officer of the Service having authority to examine aliens as to their right to enter or remain in the United States.”
Clearly, then, Sheriff Villanueva knows that such a flood of cases under judicial warrants, if they were actually introduced into the courts, would lead to a backlog unlike we’ve seen before — something he wouldn’t necessarily mind.
In fact, he’d likely use the opportunity to lambaste ICE for flooding the courts with cases. There are no other words for this — and for the entire statement he put out last week — than arrant dishonesty.
Alas, this is the sort of reasoning that what we’ll see sanctuary locales around the United States use to stymie ICE detainers.
And all they’re going to do is make their communities worse by keeping criminals who should be deported in the country for no apparent reason other than that it satisfies a political agenda. If their policies are like Los Angeles County’s, that’ll apply to the worst of the worst criminals.
Los Angeles County’s policy protects nobody and uses faulty logic at every level to justify its existence. For the sake of those under Sheriff Villanueva’s jurisdiction, it needs to be ended.
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