One of California’s largest sheriff’s departments bans ICE transfers, officials say

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The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department banned all U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement transfers, officials said.

In April, the sheriff’s department placed “a moratorium on transfers of qualified inmates from the nation’s largest jail system to ICE during the COVID-19 pandemic,” which will now be permanent, Sheriff Alex Villanueva said in a statement.

“After learning of the pending litigation regarding the conditions in the Adelanto/ICE detention facility and allegations of similar conditions at other ICE facilities, the moratorium will now be permanent and we will no longer transfer individuals to the custody of ICE based solely on a civil immigration detainer,” Villanueva said. “In so doing, we have created a bright line between federal immigration enforcement and local law enforcement in the most populous County in the nation.”

The ban comes after Villanueva rejected the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program (SCAAP) grant, which he said “sold our undocumented inmate data based information for federal funds.” Villanueva said the program was “morally indefensible,” and Los Angeles County gained $122 million from 2005 to 2018 from the program.

“We will encourage ICE to use the constitutionally sound judicial warrant system, used by all other law enforcement agencies in the nation, to effect legal transfers from Los Angeles County to federal custody,” he said. “The Sheriff’s Department will also continue its work with the District Attorney’s Office by providing the required assurances requested by ICE to ensure that those who have fled to other countries to avoid prosecution will return and stand trial.”

Immigrant advocates hope the change in Los Angeles County’s Sheriff Department, one of the largest in the country, will “set a precedent for other local and state agencies,” the Desert Sun reported.

ICE spokesperson Alexx Abascal told the Desert Sun the policy could “jeopardize public safety.”

“Policymakers who strive to make it more difficult to remove dangerous criminal aliens and aim to stop the cooperation of local officials and law enforcement partners harm the very communities whose welfare they have sworn to protect,” Abascal told the outlet.

Villanueva, however, said in Tuesday’s statement that the biggest threat to public safety is when undocumented immigrants are afraid to report crime.

“There is no greater threat to public safety than a million undocumented immigrants who are afraid to report crime, out of fear of deportation and having their families torn apart,” he said. “As the Sheriff of Los Angeles County, I am responsible for everyone’s public safety, regardless of immigration status.”

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