Under a new policy announced Thursday, the LAPD will not honor federal requests to detain illegal immigrants arrested for public nuisance offenses or low-grade misdemeanors.
As it stands, if you are undocumented and arrested by LAPD for a low grade offense, an alleged offender could get more than a fine and a ticket.
Due to the federal Secure Communities program, anyone processed in the jail who is in the United States illegally faces deportation.
That includes Isaura Garcia who was mistakenly arrested in a domestic violence case and Magalli Dominguez who sold hotdogs on the street.
LAPD Police Chief Charlie Beck says he want to change the policy regarding what is called an ICE detainer - the process in which an undocumented arrestee is held for potential deportation.
"The dept is going to develop a set of protocols that will limit the types of crimes for which the department will honor ICE detainers," said Beck.
The change comes after two years of discussions with immigrant groups. Community leaders say immigrants often don't feel safe approaching police even to report crime since many people have been detained by ICE for minor offenses.
According to CHIRLA Senior Police Advocate Joseph Villela, illegal immigrants arrested for a low grade offense such as driving a bicycle without a helmet on faced deportation under the ICE program.
"Seven out of ten people that have been deported under this program have no criminal record at all," said Villela. "The only offense was to engage with law enforcement."
In the meantime, Chief Beck makes assurances. Under the programs changes, felony offenders and gang members would still be reported to ICE.
"You should use the power of the government and the power of the enforcement of immigration to keep and increase public safety. And you should do that by targeting those most serious and violent criminals," said Beck.
Some critics say LAPD should enforce the law not interpret it.
"I don't think its law enforcements place to interpret the law. Everybody has their jobs out there. This is the reason we don't send judges out to arrest people and the reason that the police don't sentence people. The interpretation is supposed to be left up to the judges and the courts and not to law enforcement themselves," said Stephen Kruiser of PJTV.com.
Beck hopes to obtain the Police Commission's approval and have the new police in place by Jan. 1, 2013.