Monday, February 05, 2007

Los Angeles: Jail crackdown leads to increased deportations of illegal immigrants


Since Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies began immigration checks in 2006, the number of suspected illegal immigrants found in Los Angeles County jails that have been flagged for deportation nearly doubled to 5,829.

“The benefit is these people who are committing crimes aren't being released onto our streets to commit more crimes. They are being removed from the United States," Jim Hayes, director of the Los Angeles field office for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, told the Los Angeles Times.

In 2004, the number of inmates flagged for deportation was 3,050 -- out of total jail population of around 20,000. The Times reported that the reason for the uptick is because of increased screening, rather than an increase in illegal immigrants in the jails.

Since late 2005, eight trained screeners have been assigned to the jail. This, in turn, resulted in the screening of almost 10,000 convicts, the newspaper reported. The number of federal agents assigned to the jail doubled in October.

Beyond routine questioning, a convict's name is entered in an ICE database to check against a list of people previously deported or otherwise found to have violated immigration laws. People identified as illegal are handed over to federal agents for deportation proceedings after they have been released from county custody.

"It's a good start, but they need to go further," said Paul Orfanedes, litigation director for Judicial Watch, a group that has sued law enforcement agencies, including the Los Angeles Police Department, alleging that they officially turn a blind eye.

Almost 7,000 inmates were handed over to federal authorities for deportation hearings last year.

Federal officials estimated that about 40,000 of the 170,000 inmates who go through L.A. County jails each year are in the United States illegally, The Times reported.

"It's one thing to come to the United States to find a better life," Sheriff Lee Baca told The Times. "It's another thing to come to the United States to commit crimes. Every criminal who is in our country illegally should be deported."

Word that the stepped-up enforcement is working has been released days before federal and local law enforcement officials are to hold a summit in Universal City on ways to more effectively combat foreign-born gang members.



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