LOS ANGELES —
Among 4 million residents in the city of Los Angeles, an estimated half a million are undocumented.
L.A. police captain Alfred Labrada used to be one of them. “I came here undocumented many years ago in this country as a young child and lived in some of the fear that I think some of the community is (feeling),” said Labrada, who received his citizenship after joining the military.
He says fear among undocumented immigrants is heightened because of President Donald Trump's executive orders on immigration. Those orders expand the scope of who can be labeled as a “criminal,” subjecting more people to possible deportation.
“I understand some of the fears there are occurring in the country, and I see it. A lot of the parents have for a time being, some, kept their children from schools,” said Labrada.
The LAPD has seen a drop in the number of calls to police. There has been a 10-percent decrease in domestic violence calls, and a 25-percent drop in sexual assaults calls.
“So that's worrisome to us. We don't know if there are less crimes occurring, or they're just fearful of reporting because they still fear that we're going to notify ICE,” Labrada said.
Officers from the Department of Homeland Security's Federal Protective Service stand guard as people demonstrate outside a federal immigration court in Los Angeles, March 6, 2017, protesting the arrest of an immigrant who has been ordered deported.
Trust in law enforcement
When it comes to a person's immigration status, Labrada says, the LAPD does not work with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) because residents need to trust their police.
“If they don't feel comfortable calling us because they think we're going to call ICE ... then we're not going to get calls for service. We're going to have victims, victimized,” said Labrada.
But ICE says that this point of view is “wrongheaded,” and law enforcement is posing the greater threat to public safety by not working with ICE.
“Rather than transferring convicted criminal aliens to ICE custody as requested, agencies, including the Los Angeles Police Department, are routinely releasing these offenders back onto the street to potentially re-offend, and their victims are often other members of the immigrant community,” responded ICE in a statement to VOA.
California has a law — the Trust Act — that protects undocumented immigrants by preventing county jails and other local law enforcement from turning over undocumented immigrants to ICE unless they commit serious crimes.
“So if you don't meet that status, then by California law, we are not to notify ICE of their existence or participation in the jail,” explained Steve Kea, Assistant Sheriff in Orange County, which borders Los Angeles County.
Orange County is the more conservative of the two, and its sheriff wants to cooperate with whatever policies the Trump administration promotes. She requested that President Donald Trump help county law enforcement better cooperate with ICE.
“What she's (Orange County Sheriff) asking is for them to take the proactive step to empower us to hold them in custody until they are turned over,” said Kea.
For now, the immigration status of the people coming into the Orange County jail is noted and only if they are convicted of a serious crime, is ICE notified.