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2 Corona Officials Will Review Police Role in Alien Sweeps

Times Staff Writer

Citing continuing concern among Latinos over recent U.S. Border Patrol sweeps, the Corona City Council has appointed two of its members to review the issue of police cooperation with immigration authorities.

Mayor S. R. (Al) Lopez and Mayor Pro Tem William Franklin will represent the city at community meetings, talk to local residents and report back to the council on last week’s roundup and Corona residents’ reaction, Lopez said Thursday.

He asked that the committee be formed because some Latino residents have complained of “mistreatment (and) unnecessary roughness” during the immigration sweep, which netted about 100 suspected illegal aliens last Thursday.

“I have also received calls in support of the Police Department,” Lopez said, “because of the law enforcement side of it.”

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Civil libertarians and Latino activists, however, have complained that police departments should not cooperate with federal authorities enforcing immigration laws. Some cities, including Santa Ana, have told their police officers not to cooperate with the Border Patrol.

2 Support Cooperation

“I’m hoping that . . . we will be able to possibly respond to some of those concerns and gather sufficient information that we will be able to resolve the issue,” Lopez said.

Two of the five council members already have declared their support for police cooperation with the Border Patrol. “While I appreciate the concern,” Councilman William Miller said, ". . . I would not be in favor of any City Council interference with federal or local policing agencies.”

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Because of their familiarity with the community, Corona police officers’ presence can prevent problems during immigration raids, Councilman R. Gary Miller said. “Our local police would really be able to protect the citizens of Corona better than federal agents.”

Lopez concedes that his committee’s biggest job probably will be explaining the city’s policy to the public rather trying to revise it.

But Father Bob Buchanan of St. Edward’s Catholic Church in Corona said he hopes to persuade the city fathers to adopt a policy similar to that of Santa Ana.

The Scriptures, Buchanan said, tell Christians that “we’re supposed to help the alien. . . . We want to help the undocumented. We support them in trying to be good people and trying to earn a living.”

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Some of his parishioners--including illegal aliens--question the constitutionality of methods used by Border Patrol and Corona police officers last week. Some of the suspects may have been detained against their will, or asked to produce immigration papers without probable cause, Buchanan said.

The authorities “just treat them like cattle and herd them out,” he said.

Under federal immigration law, Border Patrol agents have the right “to interrogate any alien or person believed to be an alien,” said Deputy Chief Mike Williams of the Border Patrol in San Diego.

During last week’s four-hour sweep, teams of local police officers and Border Patrol agents combed the city in white Corona police cars.

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The aliens, all of them Mexican citizens, were later taken to the border at Tijuana after signing voluntary-return forms, a Border Patrol spokesman said. The sweep was similar to one conducted Jan. 28, when 74 suspected illegal aliens were apprehended by the Border Patrol and Corona police.

Williams said both his agents and Corona officers “acted with great professionalism.” Regarding “any charges of brutality, any kind of rough treatment,” he said, “we would we glad to look into each and every complaint . . . as long as we have some specifics.”

Corona police officers participate in these raids “so the peace and harmony and proper protection of the rights of citizens will be abided by,” Lopez said. “Perhaps, hopefully, we (can explain) the reasons behind why our department is involved.”


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