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    Senior Member JohnDoe2's Avatar
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    CA. ICE-police partnership nets over 800 arrests in two years

    ESCONDIDO: ICE-police partnership nets over 800 arrests in two years

    4 hours ago • By EDWARD SIFUENTES

    More than 800 people have been arrested since 2010 under a partnership between the Escondido Police Department and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

    The two-year-old program, called Operation Joint Effort, has been praised by the two agencies, which say it is responsible for ridding the city of hundreds of dangerous criminals.

    But critics say the program is alienating the immigrant community in Escondido and tearing families apart.

    The program began quietly on May 10, 2010. There were no public hearings. The City Council did not discuss it in public meetings.

    There was no formal, written agreement between the two agencies, officials said, and the Police Department does not keep track of the people it turns over to ICE.

    When asked about data on the program, Police Chief Jim Maher said the department does not keep the names of the people handed over to immigration authorities because it would require too much work.

    "That's just a lot of bureaucratic work that I don't see any law enforcement value to," Maher said. "For us, just knowing that we've arrested these individuals with prior convictions and what their convictions were is enough for me to know that this is a very effective program."

    Maher said the department relies on ICE to track information on the program. The chief regularly asks ICE for and reviews the number of arrests and the criminal background on those who have been arrested.

    Unique partnership

    Operation Joint Effort is the only partnership of its kind in the nation, according to ICE and police officials. It is different from the two other major federal programs that use local law enforcement officers to deport illegal immigrants.

    One of those programs, commonly known as the 287(g) program, helps train law enforcement officers and authorizes them to enforce federal immigration laws. The second is called Secure Communities, which matches the fingerprints of inmates booked into local jails against federal databases to identify illegal immigrants.

    Under Escondido's Operation Joint Effort, eight ICE officers and one supervisor work nearly around the clock assisting Escondido police officers and detectives to identify and investigate criminal illegal immigrants. Police officers are not deputized to enforce immigration laws or investigate people's immigration status.

    Police officers in the field can call ICE officers to help identify people who have no driver's license or ID. Police officers can also call on ICE when the police officer finds someone known to have been deported previously.

    When the program started in 2010, the two agencies agreed that the ICE officers would be available to assist officers and help determine people's immigration status. ICE also agreed not to arrest victims of crimes or those who had no criminal history or no formal deportation order from an immigration court.

    Before the program officially began, ICE had one officer working with the Police Department's anti-gang unit. The two agencies agreed to bring in more ICE officers to work with police to target other criminals, not just gang members.

    Scott Hamelin, ICE's assistant field office director in San Diego, who oversees Operation Joint Effort, said the officers strictly adhere to the program's rules.

    The program also fits within ICE's wider policy priorities of targeting criminal illegal immigrants, those deemed a threat to national security and people who have been ordered deported, Hamelin said.

    "I don't want to bog down my personnel with somebody that's just here illegally looking for a job when we might have other people with a criminal history," Hamelin said.

    Immigrant rights

    ICE officers in Escondido routinely come into contact with dozens of people a day who might be illegal immigrants but are not arrested, officials said.

    The program has been heavily criticized by immigrant rights advocates, who see Operation Joint Effort as part of a political witch hunt against Latinos, who make up the majority of illegal immigrants in the city.

    Six years ago, a majority of the City Council adopted or discussed a number of measures that were seen as anti-immigrant, including a law that would prohibit landlords from renting to illegal immigrants. The law was withdrawn after the American Civil Liberties Union of San Diego and Imperial Counties sued the city.

    Community activists saw the rental ban as a reaction to the city's increasingly Latino population. Latinos make up nearly half ---- about 49 percent ---- of Escondido's 144,000 residents.

    In an attempt to verify that the Police Department and ICE were adhering to their policies, the North County Times submitted a records request to the city of Escondido in October 2011 for the names of the individuals arrested under Operation Joint Effort and the reason for their arrest.

    The city clerk's office responded to the request, saying that the city did not have the records the newspaper sought.

    The Police Department has released statistical information on the program, including the number of arrests and a breakdown of the kinds of crimes on suspicion of which the people were arrested. It has not released a full list of the arrestees, their names, ages, date of their arrests and the kinds of crimes each is suspected of committing.

    Maher said he routinely gets statistical data on the program and can request information on individual cases to make sure policies are being followed.

    The North County Times also filed a Freedom of Information Act request on Oct. 25, 2011, seeking the information from the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees ICE. The agency has told the newspaper that it is processing the request but had not released the information as of Friday.

    Critics' concerns

    Immigrant rights advocates say the fact that the Police Department does not keep detailed arrest information on the program is troubling.

    "When we cannot get concrete information, then it's much more difficult to hold officers accountable," said Pedro Rios, San Diego director of the American Friends Service Committee, a Quaker human rights organization.

    Since Operation Joint Effort began, it has been credited with the arrest of 819 people, Hamelin said Thursday.

    As of Nov. 14, 2011, the latest breakdown available from the Police Department, 650 were arrested under the program since it began in May 2010. Of those, 175 people were arrested on suspicion of drunken driving, 100 in connection with drug-related crimes and 59 for investigation of theft, according to the data.

    Sixteen people were arrested in sex-related crimes and 31 in gang-related crimes, according to the data released by the department.

    The second-largest category was listed as "other" charges, with 115 arrests. Of the 650 people arrested, 88 had no previous criminal convictions but had prior deportation orders.

    Bill Flores, a retired assistant sheriff who is also a member of the immigrant rights organization El Grupo, said the department should keep better track of the data so that the public can judge whether the program is justified. Without the names, the data provided by the department is incomplete, Flores said.

    "All this is unverifiable; you just have to believe them because they don't have the names," Flores said.

    Police cite successes

    All of the arrests were initiated by Escondido police officers. Some of the arrests could not have been made without the assistance of ICE, police said.

    For example, police officers responding to a report of a disturbance last year came across Pedro Trejo Ramos. Working with ICE agents, police determined that Ramos was an illegal immigrant with an extensive criminal history and two prior deportations. He had two drug arrests, two domestic violence arrests and one arrest on suspicion of welfare fraud, police said.

    Police also credit the program with helping to capture a suspected robber and rapist in May 2011. Hugo Elmer Garcia, 18, an illegal immigrant, was spotted by two ICE officers after he allegedly sexually assaulted and robbed a woman at an Escondido store on May 18, authorities said.

    Garcia had been ordered to leave the country in January 2011 and failed to comply with the order.

    ICE officers are also helping Escondido police investigate numerous crimes committed by immigrants, and track down suspects who may no longer be in the country. In one case, ICE officials said they were using agency connections in Mexico to help find a legal immigrant who was suspected of molesting his own child and who was believed to be hiding in Mexico.

    The program is considered such as success that ICE gave Escondido an award for outstanding collaboration between the agency and the Police Department. The award was given to Maher during the International Association of Chiefs of Police convention in Chicago last year.

    The federal agency recently expanded the number of officers dedicated to Operation Joint Effort from three to eight. Officials said the agency may soon have enough officers to have someone available to assist police officers in the city 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

    ESCONDIDO: ICE-police partnership nets over 800 arrests in two years : Escondido
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  2. #2
    Senior Member JohnDoe2's Avatar
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    Don't reward the criminal actions of millions of illegal aliens by giving them citizenship.

    Sign in and post comments here.

    Please support our fight against illegal immigration by joining ALIPAC's email alerts here

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