By: C. Harold Pierce
Immigrants without proper documentation booked at Santa Ana Jail for minor offenses will no longer face detainment from Immigration and Customs Enforcement as part of the Secure Communities program.
Police check an inmate’s criminal history for past offenses to see if they pose a risk. If they don’t, they’re cut loose.
“We are considering the gravity of the offense and whether that person could pose a public safety risk, so we are having our folks use more discretion,” Santa Ana Police Chief Carlos Rojas said.
Secure Communities is a federal crosschecking system that requests police detain and transfer immigrants without proper documentation to the Department of Homeland Security.
About 30 activists protested outside the Santa Ana Police Department before a public safety committee meeting Aug. 27. During public comments, they asked the city council to end its contract with ICE.
Immigrant families are afraid to call the cops, said Hairo Cortes, a member of the OC Dream Team. “They’ll live with the danger in their lives, they’ll live in dangerous environments in fear of being sent out of the country.”
The detainment policy changed the same day as the protest.
Four cities have made similar changes to the Secure Communities program, including Los Angeles, Berkeley and Santa Clara.
Detainer requests are not mandatory, California Attorney General Kamala Harris said in December.
“When police officers are perceived to engage in immigration enforcement, members of the immigrant community become less inclined to report crimes, identify criminals and assist law enforcement,” according to the policy.
It also outlines felony charges that will result in detainment, including weapons and drug possession and gang activity.
But Rojas says past detainees were not stopped for minor violations.
“We’re not seeing somebody drinking in public, bringing them in and detaining them,” Rojas said in response to complaints that detainees are brought in for victimless crimes.
The new policy will not affect those detained in the past. “Those aren’t my prisoners anymore,” Rojas said.
City council members say the change is a step in the right direction.
“We want to make sure that we stand behind keeping families together,” Councilman David Benavides said.
But activists are not considering the change a victory.
“It fell short of what we want,” said Alexis Teodoro, of the Keep Our Families Together organization.
Police set new standards for detaining immigrants without proper documentation.
[one_third][dropcap]1[/dropcap] Inmates’ criminal histories are checked for past offenses to see if they pose a safety risk.[/one_third]
[one_third][dropcap]2[/dropcap] If the inmate is jailed for a felony, possesses drugs or weapons, or is arrested for domestic terrorism, they will be detained.[/one_third]
[one_third_last][dropcap]3[/dropcap] If they are not arrested for a felony or do not pose a safety risk, they will be booked and released.[/one_third_last]