LA County DA Gascón defends new policy aimed at avoiding 'adverse immigration consequences'

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Thursday, December 8, 2022
Gascón defends policy to avoid 'adverse immigration consequences'
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Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón responded to criticism of a new policy that formally updates how the DA's office handles crimes involving immigrants.

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón responded to criticism of a new policy that formally updates how the DA's office handles crimes involving immigrants.

"This is not about a special treatment," Gascón said in an interview with ABC7. "To the contrary. this is about equal protection under the law."

The new "special directive" was sent to the county's deputy district attorneys on Tuesday. The nine-page memo says the policy is an attempt to "avoid additional immigration impact on all parties, both victims and defendants."

Gascón told ABC7: "We know that, especially within the immigrant community, there is often a reluctance to come forward and report crimes, both by victims and witnesses, because people are afraid that reporting a crime may cause deportation."

And for the accused, Gascón said it's about uniformity across the district attorney's office and similar treatment and consequences for everyone, regardless of their immigration status.

"What state law says is, if you have a situation where someone who is facing immigration consequences Is going to get, not only the punishment they would get through state law; fine, probation, whatever," Gascón said. "But in addition to that they may be deported, and you have a way to avoid that consequence within the law, then you should go in that direction."

Deputy District Attorney Jonathan Hatami is among those who received Tuesday's memo. He said he takes issue with what he described as a lack of specificity.

"The only thing I see that is new and dangerous is it applies to all crimes, including serious and violent felonies," Hatami said. "It doesn't say anywhere in there is only applies to lower level felonies.

"Number two it says you have to consider immigration status at the time of filing -- that's actually unethical in California," Hatami added.

The memo prohibits personnel from sharing information with federal immigration authorities.

"I think we should take into consideration first public safety, then you take into consideration mitigation," Hatami said.

Both Gascón and Hatami agree that an important objective is, when possible, keeping families together.

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