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ICE and LA County continue collaboration over illegal immigrant inmates

A locked cellblock inside the Los Angeles Men's Central Jail in downtown Los Angeles.

TEXT OF STORY

Kai Ryssdal: There are, by most estimates, as many as a million illegal immigrants here in Los Angeles. They pose a number of challenges to social services, education and law enforcement. Specifically, should cops protect or prosecute? The question was complicated a bit yesterday when county officials extended a program that identifies undocumented immigrants in county jails and turns them over to the federal government.

Marketplace's Jeff Tyler reports.


Jeff Tyler: At the Los Angeles County jail, after inmates are convicted, they're interviewed about their immigration status. That information is turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE.

L.A. County Sheriff's Department spokesman Steve Whitmore says about 20 percent of the jail inmates are in the U.S. illegally. Turning them over to immigration enforcement could save real money, because it shifts the cost of incarceration over to the feds.

Steve Whitmore: When you figure that it costs $80 to $90 million a year to house the 20 percent population out of the 16,000 to 18,0000 we have in our jails, the cost savings is many millions of dollars.

Angelica Salas is with the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles. She understands the financial incentive for the Sheriff's Department

Angelica Salas: Almost all local law enforcement agents that are seeing incredible cuts are looking for any way by which to increase their revenue.

But Salas says the program makes communities less safe. She says people have been calling her organization's hotline when they should be dialing 911.

Salas: We have individuals who have been victims of robbery, who have been victims of sexual assault. And before the family calls the local law enforcement agent, they're calling our hotline, because they want to be assured that they won't be turned over to ICE if they report this crime.

That distrust isn't likely to change soon. Deportations have been increasing significantly. In the last fiscal year, Immigration and Customs Enforcement removed a record-breaking number of undocumented aliens.

I'm Jeff Tyler for Marketplace.

About the author

Jeff Tyler is a reporter for Marketplace’s Los Angeles bureau, where he reports on issues related to immigration and Latin America.
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L.A. county Sheriff isn't aresting victims because they're illegal are they? If they're not (and I'm pretty sure they're not) the statement that victims aren't calling 911 because they're afraid they'll get deported sounds like an issue were the government is already doing the right thing and it shouldn't change.
This story lead me to believe that they are deporting people who are in jail for criminal charges. The only way this could add a cost to our society would be if the Country of Origin is releasing them and they're quickly coming back to the US.

"Deportations have been increasing significantly." You say that like it's a *bad* thing. Any immigrant without a valid visa is *by definition* a criminal. The law should protect them, just as someone who robs an escaped murderer should be subject to the same punishment, but that doesn't change the fact that the victim's crimes should be punished as well. To answer your question in the intro: The police should protect them from anyone trying to commit crimes against them, but illegal immigrants should be prosecuted for violating the nation's immigration laws and deported.

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