Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca said Wednesday he will no longer honor federal requests to hold undocumented immigrants arrested for low-level crimes, the L.A. Times is reporting.
A Baca spokesman said the change was prompted by a legal directive issued by California Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris on Tuesday indicating that compliance with the federal requests is at the discretion of sheriffs' and police departments.
California Attorney General Kamala Harris said Tuesday law enforcement in the state can ignore Obama administration requests to hold undocumented immigrants. "In the interest of public safety, it is our recommendation that those chiefs and sheriffs make a decision about whether or not they will detain an illegal immigrant based on their priorities," Harris said.
The state of California boasts the largest number of Secure Communities deportations. L.A. County sends an estimated 20,000 immigrants over to ICE each year, according to a Justice Strategies report released earlier this year.
"Sheriff Baca's change of policy ought to come with an apology letter," Chris Newman Legal Director at the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON) told Colorlines.com. "First and foremost, there's no way to repair the damage for the approximately 20,000 people who were held beyond their release date. More immigrants have been deported through his jail than through Sheriff Arpaio's jail in Arizona. And he owes an apology to the state of California."
"His belligerent and clearly misguided opposition to the TRUSTAct undermined what was otherwise a statewide consensus. At this point, only a bright line statewide policy can undo the damage he has caused," Newman said.
In October, NDLON and other organizations filed a lawsuit against Sheriff Baca. The lawsuit alleges that detaining people in County Jails on the basis of voluntary ICE holds is unlawful.
Colorlines.com reached out to the Sheriff Baca's press office but our request had not been answered by the time this story was published.
A new version of the TRUST Act was introduced on Monday.