LOS ANGELES (AP) – The Los Angeles police chief said Thursday he wants to stop honoring federal immigration detention requests in cases involving low-level crimes. To regain public trust, Chief Charlie Beck proposed no longer holding people arrested on public nuisance or low-grade misdemeanors such as illegal vending or driving without a license.
However, the department would detain immigrants arrested on serious crimes or with criminal backgrounds or gang affiliations, if requested by federal authorities, he said.
“The federal program that issues these detainers has a very valid core premise, and that is that 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,” Beck told reporters.
“Unfortunately, that has not always been the case and that has eroded this public trust that local police departments such as the Los Angeles police department so depend on,” he said.
Details of the plan have yet to be defined. The proposal would also need to be approved by the Board of Police Commissioners.
Beck said he believes the changes would have affected about 400 of the roughly 3,400 requests for immigration detainers the department expects to receive this year.
He said he hopes the change can take effect Jan. 1.
The move comes days after Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a bill to limit local law enforcement involvement with the federal government’s Secure Communities program, which checks the immigration status of arrestees.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman Virginia Kice said Los Angeles is exploring an option not much different than the agency’s established priorities.
“Over the past three and half years, ICE has been dedicated to implementing smart, effective reforms to the immigration system that allow it to focus its resources on criminals, recent border crossers and repeat immigration law violators,” the agency said in a statement.
Immigrant advocates welcomed Beck’s announcement. They said they hoped to work with city authorities to help craft a new policy, and that federal immigration officials would not interfere in the process.
“What matters is the way in which police interact with immigrants who deserve the same protection of civil rights and safety as all other residents in Los Angeles,” Pablo Alvarado, director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, said in a statement.