California’s top law enforcer gave permission Tuesday for local police and sheriffs to decide whether to abide by federal mandatory guidelines on the detainment of undocumented immigrants.
“The federal government cannot mandate that these chiefs and sheriffs hold on to immigrants because of the request for detainer," Attorney General Kamala Harris. told reporters, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune
"The police chiefs and sheriffs have it within their discretion — within their authority — to honor that request or not.”
Harris made her announcement following several inquiries from law enforcement agencies seeking clarification on the controversial Secure Communities program, which requires police officers and sheriff’s deputies to run detainees’ fingerprints through the federal database.
Suspects believed to be undocumented immigrants are then placed on a deportation hold and transferred to the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.
The Union-Tribune reported that the program has sparked a number of lawsuits and complaints from opponents, who say a large number of people who have committed no crimes, other than being in the country without permission, are being detained and then deported.
According to the newspaper, more than 82,000 undocumented immigrants in California have deported since the program begin in 2008. Harris said almost a third of them had no criminal convictions.
In a bulletin to local law enforcement agencies, Harris essentially left it up to them to determine when to use their resources to hold detainees on behalf of the federal government.
“After analyzing the public-safety risks presented by the individual, including a review of his or her arrest offense and criminal history as well as the resources of the agency, an agency may decide for itself whether to devote resources to holding suspected unlawfully present immigrants on behalf of the federal government," she said.
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