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The state of US Immigration Enforcement in California
As a local City Council member, I hear from people who have questions about illegal immigration. To get answers, I recently attended a town hall event for public officials that was organized by the office of Rep. Grace Napolitano. The meeting presented facts about the current status of illegal immigration policies in California.
The key speaker was Jorge R. Field, acting deputy field office director for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Mr. Field is a 20-year veteran of ICE and works in the Enforcement and Removal Operations department at the Los Angeles office. Napolitano referred to Field as her “go-to person” when constituents contact her regarding immigration concerns.
During the meeting, we learned that ICE has two separate divisions with different staff, protocol and funding. Homeland Security investigates a range of immigration issues deemed potential threats to the national safety of the United States, while Enforcement and Removal Operations, or “ERO,” is responsible for maintaining compliance with immigration laws and removals.
ICE ERO’s mission is to locate and deport individuals who are in the United States illegally, and they prioritize cases of those who have been recently released from incarceration. These are individuals who have had their cases heard in court, completed the appeals process, were found guilty, served time and are now eligible for deportation.
ICE is a federal agency and does not receive state funding. California laws limit ICE access to convicted criminals and, as a result, ICE does not ask for information or assistance from local law enforcement. ICE follows a “Sensitive Locations Policy” that prohibits making arrests at California schools, hospitals and churches. Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA students cannot be arrested unless they commit crimes or violate the terms of their status. ICE does not conduct raids, pay bounties or participate in police checkpoints.
In California, local police have an issue with many residents who are here illegally not reporting crimes or coming forward as witnesses because of fear of deportation. In an effort to address this problem, local law enforcement are not tasked with handling immigration work. They do not arrest, detain or deport undocumented residents unless they have committed a crime, and they are not in cooperation with ICE.
Recently, two laws were passed at the state capitol in Sacramento that dramatically changed the way ICE is able to interview and make arrests in California. The Trust Act and Truth Act prohibit police, the county and the state of California from sharing information with ICE about “convicted criminal illegal aliens.” Rather than being deported immediately upon completion of their sentences, these individuals are now allowed to return to the community, and ICE must search for them within society.