MARCHING FOR FREEDOM:
Immigration rights activists rally for a change in local detainment laws.
The monotony of a city council meeting was broken Tuesday when protesters demanded an end to Santa Ana’s participation in a federal program meant to deport immigrants guilty of serious crimes.
Marilynn Montano was one of about a dozen who pleaded with city council members to end the Santa Ana Police Department’s cooperation with Secure Communities, a federal program aimed at finding criminals living in the country without citizenship papers.
“I have many dreams … but I have one nightmare that doesn’t end when I wake up — my parent’s deportation,”
Montano said with anger. “My familia has had to move from room to room due to the ICE raids.”
Secure Communities allows police to send detainees’ fingerprints to Immigration and Customs Enforcement to verify status.
Activists argue that the program has ensnared law-abiding immigrants and asked the council to tackle the issue on the May 20 agenda.
After being pressed several times, Mayor Miguel Pulido did not address the question.
“You can’t fail us too. Our government did last year, our Congress will too,” said Hairo Cortez, a Santa Ana College student who is not in the country legally.
The SAPD has leased bed space to the Department of Homeland Security inside county jails like the Theo Lacy Facility in Orange since 2009. Under the agreement with ICE, the OC Sheriff’s Department is paid $118 per detainee each day.
Depending on the severity of their immigration violation history, the detainees can be deported, or held for about 60 days, according to Detention Watch Network.
In the Santa Ana City Jail, 80 percent of the 769 detainees were not convicted of a crime, according to February data from the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse.
Not all law enforcement agencies cooperate with the feds.
In 2011, the San Jose Police Department joined several cities that refuse to honor detainer requests.
“We’re willing to look at any of the processes and make any changes,” said Santa Ana Chief of Police Carlos Rojas, “but at the end of the day we want to ensure the safety of the community regardless if someone is here illegally or not.”
Mayor Pro Tem Sal Tinajero says the city council has other pressing concerns, but he didn’t overrule the possibility of confronting the issue.
“When people come up and tell me about their houses being raided, those things are very disturbing,” said Tinjajero. “[They] put it on our radar, now the responsibility is on us.”