LOS ANGELES (KABC) --After a campaign in which now President-elect Donald Trump promised more aggressive deportations, Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell sought to reassure local immigrant communities that his agency plans to stick by its policy of not serving as immigration agents.
McDonnell is expected to address the subject of immigration enforcement under the Trump administration with the county Board of Supervisors on Tuesday. The board is also expected to announce plans to form a county office for immigrant affairs.
McDonnell gave a preview of his thoughts in an interview with Eyewitness News.
"I want to be very reassuring to all our communities, that we're a safe haven," McDonnell said. "We're there to be able to protect all of the communities throughout the county."
"We have people from over 200 different countries that live in LA County. We need to serve everybody."
Both the Sheriff's Department and the Los Angeles Police Department have had longstanding policies of not having officers and deputies question people about their immigration status or essentially act as deportation-enforcement agents on behalf of the federal government.
Among other reasons, the policy is designed to prevent witnesses to crimes from being scared of talking to investigators.
"I want to reassure our immigrant population that we're there for them," McDonnell said. "We need to work with our communities. Because if people are afraid of approaching a police officer, a deputy sheriff, they're afraid of making a report, then we all suffer."
In 2015, the LASD did begin working with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to allow the county's most violent jail inmates to be deported once they reach the end of their sentences.
McDonnell noted that the number of these "worst of the worst" inmates who are deported is lower than people might think.
He said last year out of 120,000 inmates released from county jails, less than 1,200 were picked by the the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement for deportation.
Trump has threatened to cut funding for "sanctuary cities" that limit their cooperation with federal immigration authorities. McDonnell said he believes the new administration's actions may be less aggressive than the rhetoric of the campaign indicated.