More Brutality Coming to LA County Jails—ICE to Deport Prisoners

October 5, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper |


From a reader:

Four months ago, the LA County Supervisors made a ruling that outlawed ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) from going into the LA County jails. Now, in an outrageous reversal, LA County Sheriff Jim McDonnell said that ICE will be allowed in the jails to deport immigrant prisoners.

As Revolution previously reported, the LA County jails have been exposed for their massive brutality against prisoners and visitors. (See “Brutality in the Dungeons of Los Angeles—This Must Be Stopped!“ December 16, 2013.) Eighteen sheriff’s deputies were arrested for covering up these beatings as well as for disappearing prisoners. In July 2014, six of these brutal dungeon keepers were convicted and then later sentenced to prison.

5 Stops

McDonnell qualified his statement by saying that “the new policy will allow U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents access to inmates who have committed serious crimes and who are not protected under a 2013 state law that restricts collaboration between local cops and federal immigration officials.” That law, the California Trust Act, bars local authorities from holding inmates at ICE’s request unless the inmate has been convicted of a serious or violent crime. At the same time, McDonnell said that “ICE agents would have full access to inmates in the jails and the inmate release area, and to the department’s databases.” He said he would adhere to the California Trust Act.

But a Los Angeles Times editorial questioned whether allowing ICE “full access” violated the California Trust Act. On the other hand, the editorial called going after those “who have committed serious crimes” as being “reasonable.” That’s outrageous. There is nothing reasonable about deporting people—and further, the Los Angeles Times does not have a clue about how ICE has defined those “who have committed serious crimes.”

Here are some of those categories directly from the memorandum “Policies for the Apprehension, Detention and Removal of Undocumented Immigrants” (November 20, 2014), where ICE lays out how they will dedicate resources for deporting:

(a) aliens convicted of three or more misdemeanor offenses, other than minor traffic offenses or state or local offenses for which an essential element was the alien’s immigration status, provided the offenses arise out of three separate incidents;
(b) aliens convicted of a “significant misdemeanor,” which for these purposes is an offense of domestic violence; sexual abuse or exploitation; burglary; unlawful possession or use of a firearm; drug distribution or trafficking; or driving under the influence; or if not an offense listed above, one for which the individual was sentenced to time in custody of 90 days or more (the sentence must involve time to be served in custody, and does not include a suspended sentence);
(c) aliens apprehended anywhere in the United States after unlawfully entering or re-entering the United States and who cannot establish to the satisfaction of an immigration officer that they have been physically present in the United States continuously since January 1, 2014 ; and
(d) aliens who, in the judgment of an ICE Field Office Director, USCIS District Director, or USCIS Service Center Director, have significantly abused the visa or visa waiver programs.

Also included for deportation are those who have been issued a final order of removal (legally ordered to be removed from this country) on or after January 1, 2014. Included in this group are all those who are stopped while crossing the border, held in detention, and then sent to court.

These categories take the notion of “serious crimes” and broaden that out in a way that just about includes any immigrant who is currently being held in a jail.

Los Angeles is not the only jurisdiction that has recently reversed previous decisions to not allow ICE into their jails. Over 340 communities previously enacted such provisions. But now, with the new ICE ruling and a vicious political campaign targeting immigrants, over half of those communities have reversed their earlier rulings and are now giving ICE “full access” to their jails.

How did we get to this situation, in such a short time, where in a four-month period these communities reversed their stand on allowing immigrants in jails to be deported?

The Secure Communities Program came in with the Obama administration and it outlined a procedure to deport anyone deemed a “threat to public safety.” Resources and funding for massive deportations were allocated to this program. During the Obama administration from 2009 to 2014, almost three million people were deported with a little over half of them not convicted of any crimes.

Opposition to this program grew as immigrant rights groups, hunger strikers in detention centers, the Dreamers (undocumented people who came to this country as children), and others who were outraged by this pogrom against immigrants came into struggle against it, demanding that immigrants be treated and respected as full human beings with rights. By 2011, communities were beginning to say that they were not going to participate in any deportation program and that grew to a high of 340 communities by the end of 2014. Some of these cities became “sanctuary cities” for immigrants.

This opposition forced Obama to come out and say that these massive deportations were splitting apart families and removing law-abiding, productive people from this country, and that the immigration policy in the U.S. was “broken” and needed to be fixed. At the same time, his administration continued to deport hundreds of thousands each year, reaching a peak of 438,000 in 2013. (For a further analysis of this, see “Obama’s Immigration Moves: Nothing to Celebrate—A Need for Increased Resistance,” December 1, 2014.)

In late 2013, the Secure Communities Program was abandoned. It was replaced in the summer of 2014 with ICE’s Priority Enforcement Program (PEP), which was seen as a “lesser and kinder” deportation program. Rather than deporting all who can be deported as was done under the Secure Communities Program, PEP’s stated role is to enable “DHS [Department of Homeland Security] to work with state and local law enforcement to take custody of individuals who pose a danger to public safety before those individuals are released into our communities.”

On November 14, 2014, Jeh Charles Johnson, Secretary of DHS, issued a memorandum with “new policies for the apprehension, detention, and removal of aliens in this country.” As we can see above, those “new policies” include a very wide range of people who can now be deported. Further, how PEP identifies people does not differ from the Secure Communities Act as it continues the policy to allow ICE agents to access all fingerprint-based biometric data submitted during bookings by state and local law enforcement agencies to the FBI for criminal background checks. Therefore, the ICE database will contain biometric data on anyone who enters a jail system for any reason they are arrested, whether they are guilty or not.

Further, this new policy “mandates that sheriff’s deputies assigned to jails will give ICE up to seven days of notification before an inmate deemed potentially deportable is to be released, so that immigration officials can begin the deportation process.” For anyone to state, as DHS and ICE do, that PEP is “supposed to target terrorists, violent criminals, gang members, and recent border crossers” is ludicrous, when we know that any undocumented person “sentenced to time in custody of 90 days or more” will be deported.

But despite this “kinder, gentler” deportation program, there was still a problem with getting all those jurisdictions that previously refused to cooperate with ICE to allow them access to their jails. So DHS and ICE began a full-court press by allocating resources and funds to lobby local governments and the sheriffs to convince them that they would not face a backlash if they reversed their previous rulings. Still, most communities refused to budge.

Then things turned in DHS’s and ICE’s favor: Donald Trump, the Republican presidential campaign, and a killing in San Francisco. Trump kicked off his presidential campaign calling undocumented immigrants “rapists, drug dealers, and criminals,” and announced that he would deport 11.3 million undocumented immigrants and would repeal the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, ending the birthright citizenship of all babies born to undocumented immigrant parents, and build an impenetrable wall along the southern U.S. border. Then, when a woman was shot and killed in San Francisco by an undocumented immigrant who was released from police custody despite a detention request from ICE, Trump used that to further bolster his diatribe against immigrants and build mass support for his anti-immigrant program. Trump was followed by other Republican candidates for president—Chris Christie, Carly Fiorina, Ben Carson, and Ted Cruz—as all of them continued to spew racist rants and to propose vicious pogroms against immigrants.

This anti-immigrant program may seem like the ravings of some lunatics, which Trump and others are. But as we have stated previously, “these (rants) are calculated and the Trump campaign is deadly serious,” and this is “a serious plan for massive pogroms, U.S. style, upon immigrants and people of Mexican descent. This is the program being embraced by a section of the U.S. ruling class. And as part of this they are working to enlist the support of broad sections of the people in this country in the name of “making America great again” and putting “American workers first.” (See “14th Amendment Gave Ex-Slaves Citizenship—Trump Says Shred It,” August 31, 2015, and “Trump: The Vileness IS the Point,” August 17, 2015.)

This whole election process, which is now, primarily, focused on the Republican candidates, has emboldened a section of the population that wants to cohere this country around open white supremacy, the Bible, and fascist solutions to the key social contradictions that currently exist in this society—the oppression of Black people, global wars of empire, forcing women back into motherhood, destruction of the environment, and mass deportation of immigrants—social contradictions that are deeply rooted in the current mode of production, this system of capitalism-imperialism. And it is these contradictions that have given rise to Donald Trump and his ilk.

And now that this debate has been “legitimized” and deemed as “serious” by the whole election process, cities and communities are reversing their previous rulings to keep ICE out of the jails. Joe Guzzardi of Californians for Population Stabilization, which favors tighter restrictions on immigration, said that, “The action by the Los Angeles County sheriff may smooth the path for other jurisdictions that would like to cooperate with federal immigration officials under the new program but have been concerned about receiving criticism for doing so.”

Jennie Pasquarella, a staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, said that “Los Angeles is a priority jurisdiction for ICE, and I think it will be a model that is used by other counties, for better or worse.” Just this week, the North Carolina Senate voted to ban “sanctuary cities” in the state. And other communities throughout the country are following suit. In Fresno and Kern counties in California, sheriff’s officials are now letting ICE work out of the jails to take people into custody directly. San Diego and San Bernardino counties said “they are notifying ICE when immigrants sought by the agency are being released so deportation officers can arrive in time to pick them up.” The Dallas County sheriff’s department in Texas said they will allow ICE to detain immigrants who are “more serious offenders.”

But not all cities and counties are going along with the deportation steamroller. San Francisco and Cook County, Illinois are saying to ICE: No Way! We are not we going to participate in PEP and allow you in our jails.

People should not stand for this ramp-up of immigrant deportations. We’ve got to put a stop to ICE being in the jails of this country and deporting our brothers and sisters. We have to breathe, live, and fight for what is stated in one of the “5 Stops”: STOP The Demonization, Criminalization, and Deportations of Immigrants, and the Militarization of the Border!



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