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LAPD chief: We'll stop holding some undocumented immigrants for feds

Days after California’s governor vetoed a bill that would have let local authorities ignore federal requests to hold undocumented immigrants for possible deportation, the Los Angeles police chief has decided he won’t comply with the requests in low-level cases.

Police Chief Charlie Beck said Thursday that he had to craft a program that would serve his community.

"It strikes me as somebody who runs a police department that is 45 percent Hispanic and polices a city that is at least that, that we need to build trust in these communities and we need to build cooperation or we won't be prepared," the Los Angeles Times quoted Beck as saying.

Out of 105,000 annual arrests, the Los Angeles police get about 3,400 requests, known as detainers or holds, from Immigration and Customs Enforcement, The Los Angeles Daily News reported.  The holds are part of the Secure Communities program, in which the FBI shares fingerprints of those arrested with federal immigration authorities, who determine if the persons are legally in the U.S. or if they can be deported due to a criminal conviction.

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Immigration advocates say the holds cast a wide dragnet that has ensnared even those who had committed minor crimes or no offenses at all. But ICE has said the program was instrumental in helping enforce immigration laws and in getting violent offenders off the streets.

Nick Ut / AP file

Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck: "Community trust is extremely important. It's my intent that we gain that trust back."

“The LAPD is proposing to no longer grant an ICE detainer request without first reviewing the seriousness of the offense for which the person is being held as well as their prior arrest history and gang involvement,” according to an LAPD statement.

The department was developing a list of criminal offenses, such as public nuisance and low-grade misdemeanors, that in its view don’t meet the program's intended purpose.

Under the LAPD’s new proposal, those arrested for low-grade misdemeanors won’t be held for ICE unless the person had a prior felony arrest or was a documented gang member. The person also won't be held without additional information from ICE. The police will still honor detention requests on felony and high-grade misdemeanor arrests.

About 400 ICE requests annually could be ignored under the new policy, Beck said, adding that City Attorney Carmen Trutanich had informed him that police could legally refuse to honor ICE detainer requests, according to local media reports.

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Beck said he believes in some cases, the detentions have unnecessarily split up families, Reuters reported.

"Community trust is extremely important," he said. "It's my intent that we gain that trust back."

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Late Sunday, Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed the Trust Act, controversial legislation similar to what Beck has opted to do. Beck said his new rules, which he hopes to implement by Jan. 1, were in the works before the governor’s veto, the Daily News reported.

In his veto message, Brown said he could not sign the bill because under it, “local officers would be prohibited from complying with an immigration detainer unless the person arrested was charged with, or has been previously convicted of, a serious or violent felony.

“Unfortunately, the list of offenses codified in the bill is fatally flawed because it omits many serious crimes,” he said, adding that he would work with lawmakers to improve the legislation.

Several counties and cities have enacted ordinances that limit police cooperation with federal immigration authorities, The New York Times has reported.

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ICE says it prioritizes the deportation of those who present the most significant threats to public safety, and that it has deported more than 147,400 convicted criminal undocumented immigrants, including more than 54,200 individuals convicted of violent offenses such as murder, rape and the sexual abuse of children, under the program.

“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,” ICE Deputy Press Secretary Gillian Christensen said Friday in a statement to NBC News. “The federal government alone sets these priorities and places detainers on individuals arrested on criminal charges to ensure that dangerous criminal aliens and other priority individuals are not released from prisons and jails into our communities.”

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