Posted on January 26, 2005

Baca’s Plan to Screen Inmates OKd

Solomon Moore, Los Angeles Times, Jan. 26

A controversial plan to train clerks at the Los Angeles County jail to identify inmates who are illegal immigrants and turn them over to immigration officials was approved Tuesday by the county Board of Supervisors.

After hours of intense debate, the board voted 3 to 2 for the plan, the first time a California jailer has agreed to screen inmates for immigration violations.

“People who come here illegally and commit crimes need to be prosecuted, do their time and then return to their home country,” Sheriff Lee Baca said Monday.

Currently, two federal immigration agents stationed at Twin Towers Jail interview as many as 20 convicted foreign-born inmates daily.

About 80% are placed in federal custody for possible deportation or prosecution on federal immigration charges.

But federal officials estimate that about 40,000 of the 170,000 inmates who come through the county jail each year are in the United States illegally.

Under the plan, Immigration and Customs Enforcement would train six custodial assistants employed by the county to interview convicted inmates on their immigration status. The clerks would be supervised by federal immigration agents, who would continue to do interviews.

Jails Chief Chuck Jackson estimated that the additional interviewers could identify as many as 100 illegal immigrants a day.