TORRANCE (CBSLA.com) — As the debate continues over whether Los Angeles is a sanctuary city in practice if not in name, county authorities Monday sought to reassure those in the U.S. illegally that they would not be targeted by sheriff’s deputies.

A memo released by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department stated deputies are not permitted to ask about a person’s immigration status during traffic stops or other service calls.

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The memo stated: “Our Department members shall investigate criminal activity without regard to an individual’s immigration status. We shall not initiate police activity with the sole objective of discovering an individual’s immigration status.”

A deputy who asks about a person’s immigration status could be subject to “administrative action”, according to the memo.

The department’s ban on deputies inquiring about immigration status “is intended to reassure immigrant communities that
there is no need for fear when contacting the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department when they need us most”, the memo stated.

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Last month, L.A. County Sheriff Jim McDonnell voiced his opposition to a so-called “Sanctuary State” bill currently before the California State Legislature that would prohibit local law enforcement from cooperating with federal immigration authorities, essentially creating a border-to-border sanctuary.

But a new study found more than two-thirds of L.A. County residents favor making their hometown a “sanctuary city” where undocumented immigrants could be shielded from deportation.

The survey conducted by Loyola Marymount University researchers also found that 40 percent of those surveyed said they “strongly
support” a sanctuary city where they live, with 28 percent saying they “somewhat support” the idea. Fifteen percent said they “somewhat oppose” their town being a sanctuary city, and 17 percent “strongly oppose.”

While there is no official legal definition of a sanctuary city, several cities in Southern California and statewide have voted to declare themselves one. The city of Los Angeles has declined to take the title even though its practice of limiting its cooperation with the federal government on deportations is consistent with the typical definition.

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