Latino leaders condemned both the city Police Department and the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service on Wednesday for the deportation of a legal resident who was among those arrested during a recent police sweep of the Civic Center.
At a press conference, representatives of Hermandad Mexicana Nacional, Los Amigos of Orange County, the California Immigrant Workers Organization and other groups called for an end to the sweeps. The groups demanded an investigation by the U.S. Justice Department and the Orange County Grand Jury of “unlawful collaboration” between the police and immigration services.
“The local Police Department has made itself an appendage to the INS,” said Juan Garcia, a Hermandad board member. “The police have a job to protect people from crime, not to deport them.”
Also present at the press conference was Alejandro Garcia, 20, who was among 64 people arrested during a sweep on Aug. 15. Garcia was arrested on the misdemeanor charge of “damaging trees,” according to the Police Department, and later deported when he was unable to prove to INS officials that he was a legal resident. After spending 12 hours in Tijuana, Garcia was readmitted to the United States when a second computer check confirmed that he is a legal resident.
The arrest “was very irregular and very racist, frankly,” said Juan Garcia. “This is only one person who was deported by mistake but it is one person too many.”
Robert M. Moshchorak, district director of the INS office in Los Angeles, refused to call the deportation a mistake. He said that although it was later proved that Garcia was a legal resident, he was not carrying a certificate of alien registration or an alien registration receipt card at the time of his arrest--something that is required by law.
“The bottom line is that this person should have had proof of registration with him at all times,” Moshchorak said.
Moshchorak and the Police Department also denied charges of collusion between the two agencies.
“We do not get involved in deportation,” Police Lt. Robert Helton said. “We don’t go out and contact people for the purpose of determining their legal status in the United States. If we come into contact with someone who is arrested for a crime and there’s a belief on our part that they are in this country illegally, that’s when we’ve had contact with the INS.”