LOS ANGELES (CN) – Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva issued a directive Wednesday barring U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement agents from entering county jails, courts and police stations on civil immigration matters.
Villanueva told reporters at the LA Hall of Justice that his directive, which takes effect Friday, brings the county in line with Senate Bill 54 – the California Values Act – which limits local police collaboration with ICE in the Golden State.
Former Sheriff Jim McDonnell firmly defended county collaboration with federal immigration officials during his time in office and opposed SB 54, which some election observers say contributed to his defeat last November.
The “Trump effect,” or the mixing of local law enforcement with federal immigration enforcement, has led to a decrease in victims reporting crimes in communities that are predominantly Latino, Villanueva said.
“[The Trump effect] endangers the safety of the public,” Villanueva said. “People do not report being victimized for fear of it leading to deportation if not of themselves, a loved one.”
Villanueva, a Chicago-born former LA County sheriff’s lieutenant who first joined the force in 1986, said federal immigration law is something Congress should address, not local police officers.
“Let’s not get involved with endangering any member of our community,” Villanueva said, adding the county will reclaim space in jails and courts that were previously reserved for ICE agents.
An ICE spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the directive.
Before his come-from-behind victory in the November 2018 election, Villanueva’s promise to end county collaboration with ICE earned his endorsements from labor unions and community organizations like the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights Los Angeles.
But the move doesn’t completely sever the sheriff department’s relationship with ICE.
Villanueva said the county will continue to transfer individuals into ICE custody when the county receives an ICE detainer, a request to hold an individual for 48 hours while ICE determines whether to initiate deportation proceedings.
“If ICE agents have a judicial warrant for someone in our custody, we’re going to treat them just like any other law enforcement agency,” Villanueva said. “We’ll of course honor any judicial warrant.”
A detainer – also known as an immigration hold – is triggered when fingerprint information collected from immigrants detained in county jails matches warrant information in a federal database.
In a 2018 report, the American Civil Liberties Union found cities that comply with ICE detainers may be exposed to litigation and liability since honoring detainers may violate the due process rights of individuals who are often jailed without charges pending or probable cause.