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Cracking down on illegals behind bars

August 12, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
A crackdown by L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca is aimed at suspected gang members already behind bars. If any of them are in the country illegally, Baca wants them turned over to federal authorities. Some people disagree, but others are giving emotional support."No matter how you look at it -- you can sugarcoat it -- but my son was murdered by an illegal alien gang banger," said Jamiel Shaw Sr.

Emotional words from the father of Jamiel Shaw Jr. The 17-year-old was shot and killed when Latino gang members pulled up in a car and asked him about his gang affiliation. He was not a gang member. Tuesday his family asked the Board of Supervisors for a new order to target illegal immigrant gang members.

"When a person is arrested and booked, why is their immigration status not checked at that time?" asked Althea Shaw, Jamiel Junior's aunt. "Why do they not even have a colored uniform different than all the other men who are incarcerated?"

Charged with Shaw's murder is 19-year-old Pedro Espinoza, a known gang member who was released from jail without authorities questioning his citizenship. With the new policy they will specifically target gang members.

"In the current policy, because of my staffing limitations, I hit about 30 to 50 percent of the possible illegal immigrants in the county jail, but in this case, we will get 100 percent of the possible illegal immigrants who are gang members," said L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca.

Right now inmates are interviewed after they are convicted, but some want to do it at the beginning, shortly after an arrest and move the inmates immediately to federal custody.

"The legal status of everyone arrested should be checked, and if they're here illegally, they should be immediately referred to ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] for processing," said Barbara Coe, California Coalition for Immigration Reform.

The LAPD has Special Order 40, a mandate that prevents police from asking about immigration status. Some feel the Sheriff's Department's new rule could lead to racial profiling.

"Sheriff Baca wants to overturn Special 40," said Nadia Kahn, who is against the new order. "That's his agenda, and all he's trying to do with this is move around the law."

The Sheriff says he can do this job without any additional manpower, just the people he has on staff right now. It could eliminate hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of prisoners from these jails.

 

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