Mayor Eric Garcetti says he is worried that arrests of immigrants by federal authorities could trigger riots in Los Angeles and put police officers in danger.
In an interview last week with the radio show Latino USA about President Trump’s immigration policies, Garcetti said relations between the Los Angeles Police Department and the community have improved in the last few decades.
But that trust is tested when U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents portray themselves as police officers or are mistaken for police when making arrests, the mayor said.
“If something goes wrong, I fear a tinderbox out there. Where people will suddenly say ‘no’ and try to defend, keep that person from being taken,” Garcetti said. “That’s dangerous for those officers. That’s dangerous for those agents. And we’re going to have to respond.”
Garcetti added that Los Angeles recently recalled the urban unrest from 25 years ago that was triggered by the acquittal of LAPD officers accused of using excessive force in the beating of Rodney King after a traffic stop.
“We know how quickly things can explode,” the mayor said.
Arrests by ICE are up 35% nationwide since Trump took office, although they remain relatively flat in Southern California.
Trump supporters and others applaud his administration’s tough rhetoric on immigration, arguing that immigrants here illegally are a drain on the economy and take jobs away from citizens.
In Los Angeles, however, Garcetti has stepped up the city’s protection of immigrants by backing the creation of a legal fund to pay for lawyers for those facing deportation. He also ordered city employees not to grant ICE access to city buildings that aren’t open to the public unless legally required.
Garcetti and other city leaders sent a letter in February to ICE Deputy Field Officer David Marin, asking that immigration agents cease identifying themselves as police officers in the course of immigration investigations.
The mayor said in the radio interview, however, that he has a “tremendous amount of respect for the men and women who serve in ICE.”
“They have a job to do, they are real human beings, many of them come from our communities, many are immigrants themselves,” Garcetti said.
George Kivork, the mayor’s spokesman, said Saturday that the mayor’s focus is on strengthening trust between LAPD officers and the community, including immigrants.
“Those long-standing partnerships are based on the idea that no one should be targeted because of immigration status — and it is a vital part of keeping our families, friends, and neighborhoods safe,” Kivork said.