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Los Angeles Mayor Expands Immigrant Protections

  • Associated Press

FILE - Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti speaks during the final day of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, July 28, 2016.

Mayor Eric Garcetti on Tuesday expanded protections for immigrants who are in the country illegally, emphasizing the city's refusal to help enforce the Trump administration's immigration crackdown.

An executive directive asks the fire chief and chiefs of the airport and port police to follow the Police Department's decades-old policy of not investigating individuals solely to determine their immigration status.

Los Angeles "champions inclusiveness and tolerance, and welcomes everyone who seeks to realize their dreams and build their families here, regardless of national origin or immigration status," Garcetti's directive said.

Immigrants are the "engine" of the Los Angeles economy, with nearly two out of three residents foreign-born or children of immigrants, Garcetti said.

Bars cooperation

The directive bars any city employee from cooperating with the enforcement of federal civil immigration laws or allowing use of city money or resources for such enforcement unless legally required to do so.

Additionally, workers cannot give federal immigration agents special access to any city facility unless legally required to do so.

Jails and police agencies around the U.S. have opted in recent years not to cooperate with immigration authorities, in some cases citing federal court rulings that immigrants cannot be held in those jails strictly because of their immigration status. Other jurisdictions have passed local ordinances barring cooperation.

Police agencies and civil rights groups have argued that immigration crackdowns -- such as recent federal raids that included arrests at courthouses -- spread panic in minority communities and make it harder for police to earn trust and fight crime.

At a news conference, Police Chief Charlie Beck said that so far this year, reports of sexual assault by Hispanics have dropped 25 percent while domestic violence reports have fallen by 10 percent.

Hispanics are believed to comprise the largest segment of Los Angeles residents who entered the country illegally.

The relationship between police and the immigrant community is strained when an officer "knocks on the front door to get witness information and to talk to a victim and people run out the back door" because they are afraid they will be arrested and deported, Beck said. "And that is what we fear the most is happening in our city."

Crackdown on 'sanctuary cities'

President Donald Trump has said he plans to crack down on so-called "sanctuary cities" and other jurisdictions that do not cooperate with immigration authorities and has threatened to eliminate access to some federal grants.

On Monday, immigration officials released a list of 206 cases of immigrants released from custody by "non-cooperative" public agencies before federal agents could intervene.

Garcetti said the report was trying to pin a "scarlet letter" on those agencies and would harm relationships between federal and local governments.

Meanwhile, Garcetti and dozens of other mayors taking part in the U.S. Conference of Mayors are urging Trump and Congress to fix what they termed a "broken" immigration system.

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