LOS ANGELES (CBS) — A chorus of Congressional Democrats on Friday called on Gov. Jerry Brown to reject a program that would require police to submit fingerprints of arrested people to federal immigration officials.
Reps. Maxine Waters, Karen Bass, Linda Sanchez, Xavier Becerra, Judy Chu, Lucille Roybal-Allard — all Democrats — signed a letter asking Brown to opt out of the federal government’s “Secure Communities” program.
The political backlash against the plan continues to grow in the wake of the city council vote this week to support state legislation that would allow local jurisdictions to opt-out.
The program was created in 2008 and calls for police to submit suspects’ fingerprints to Immigration and Customs Enforcement so they can be cross-checked with federal deportation orders.
“We’ve reached the tipping point,” said Congressman Xavier Becerra, whose district stretches from South Los Angeles through Echo Park up to Eagle Rock.
“If we don’t act now, the Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency may irreparably shatter the hard-earned trust and cooperation…that our local police officers have established with the people and communities of Los Angeles and beyond,” he added.
The call for California to opt out came in spite officials’ lack of clarity about whether it is legal for the state to break its memorandum of agreement with the federal government.
Officials said Homeland Security had violated the legal contract with local governments by deporting non-violent criminals, many who were never charged.
Becerra cited ICE statistics that found that more than half of people deported from Los Angeles County through S-Comm were not convicted of committing a crime.
If Brown accepted the advice to opt out, he would join the governors of New York and Illinois who recently removed their states from the program.
Washington, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and Washington, D.C., refused to join S-Comm from the beginning.
Legislation for California to withdraw has passed the state Assembly and is awaiting a vote in the Senate.
City Councilman Bernard Parks, a former Los Angeles police chief who introduced the City Council motion supporting the state legislation, said the program was not about setting up a sanctuary city or targeting a particular ethnicity.
“This is about maintaining a 40-year history in the city of Los Angeles in directing its energies towards having great relationships with immigrant communities…so that people having a willingness to come forward and not be victimized,” Parks said.
Becerra said one woman’s deportation status is in limbo after ICE tried to deport her from his district for reporting being the victim of domestic violence. He said another woman was deported for selling hotdogs on the street without a license.
A report by the city’s chief legislative analyst found that nearly 70 percent of people deported under Secure Communities either had no convictions or were accused of minor offenses.
LAPD Assistant Chief Michel Moore said earlier this week that the city’s Special Order 40, which prevents officers from considering immigration status when initiating a police action, has made the city safer since it was established in 1979 under then-Police Chief Daryl Gates.
Moore said other police agencies around the country have abused Secure Communities to target all illegal immigrants.
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