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Trump delays immigration sweeps. Here’s why California police say they won’t take part

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An ICE sweep in San Diego last year.
(Associated Press)

Many California law enforcement agencies said they will not be cooperating with the Trump administration’s immigration sweeps.

The sweeps were supposed to occur Sunday, but Trump announced Saturday he was postponing them for two weeks.

“At the request of Democrats, I have delayed the Illegal Immigration Removal Process (Deportation) for two weeks to see if the Democrats and Republicans can get together and work out a solution to the Asylum and Loophole problems at the Southern Border. If not, Deportations start!” Trump wrote on Twitter.

Some agencies, including the Los Angeles Police Department, have rules against enforcing many immigration laws. The argument is that police need cooperation from those here illegally in crime investigations and that police don’t want them to feel threatened by deportation if they come forward. Those policies have put the agencies at odds with Trump’s immigration crackdown.

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Both LAPD Chief Michel Moore and Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva have expressed deep concerns about the raids, as have many California politicians.

What is the history here?

Los Angeles, with its huge immigrant population, was one of the first cities to deal with the question.

And to the surprise of some today, the tolerant posture toward the immigrant community came from L.A.’ s hard-line police chief at the time, Daryl Gates.

Special Order 40 prohibited officers from initiating contact with anyone for the sole purpose of learning their immigration status and ruled out arrests for violation of U.S. immigration law.

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Its purpose was to build trust so that fear of deportation would not dissuade immigrants who were crime victims or witnesses from cooperating with police.

The policy has faced repeated attacks both from factions within the LAPD as well as anti-immigration activists who have challenged it on constitutional and practical grounds, saying it gives a free pass to criminals in the country illegally.

But it has stood the test of time, even in the Trump era. Many other cities now have similar policies.

California has also become a center of the “sanctuary” movement, with many communities — and even the state itself — declaring they are safe havens for those here illegally.

The term dates to the 1980s, when Berkeley and a few other municipalities declared themselves as such to accept migrants from Central America. At the time, U.S. immigration policies allowed some Central Americans, but not others, to enter the country.

Other places, including San Francisco, adopt far-reaching policies, such as taking steps to cut ties with federal immigration officials and refusing to fully cooperate with them.

San Francisco declared itself a sanctuary city in 1989, and city officials strengthened the stance in 2013 with its “Due Process for All” ordinance. The law declared local authorities could not hold people for immigration officials if they had no violent felonies on their records and did not currently face charges.

L.A. recently declared itself a sanctuary city.

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Trump’s deportation plan stirs fear and defiance — and hope for some supporters »

What are officials saying about the latest sweeps?

Top government officials — from L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti to Gov. Gavin Newsom — came out against them, as did top law enforcement officials.

“I strongly oppose President Trump’s threats of mass deportations,” Villanueva said. “His actions are irresponsible and unnecessary if, in fact, the president is truly concerned with removing violent undocumented felons to ensure your public safety. We cannot ensure public safety if undocumented residents are afraid to report a crime.”

Moore added: “We know how unsettling and scary this is for the community. We are not an extension of ICE…. I do worry about the intimidation it can create.”

San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo urged migrants targeted to know their rights and report the federal actions to a group of rights activists.

He encouraged residents to “inform themselves about their rights and remain vigilant for ICE agents entering a home or business without consent or a valid warrant.”

He asked residents to report the location of ICE activity; description of ICE vehicles; and any badge numbers, photos or other information to an immigrant rights group called the Rapid Response Network “so that we can gather the information and, where appropriate, take legal action.”

What will happen Sunday?

Many details about the action remain unclear.

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Moore said the LAPD had learned that about 140 individuals targeted in Southern California.

It’s part of a larger national operation that federal officials said is targeting 2,000 people who pose a threat to national security, public safety and border security.

Immigrant rights groups say their phones have been ringing off the hook.

Emilio Amaya, a longtime immigrant advocate in the Inland Empire, spent much of the day Friday taking calls from a frightened community.

Some people had called the San Bernardino Community Service Center because of rumors, which turned out to be unfounded, that immigration raids were already underway in their neighborhoods. Others shared that they had bought food and other basics so that they would not have to leave their homes next week. Still others said they would not be taking their children outside in the coming days.

“The effect is terror,” Amaya said. “We’re getting call after call after call. There is a lot of fear.”

Isn’t this part of a larger battle?

Yes. Trump and California have been exchanging volleys over immigration since the president took office.

Most recently, Trump threatened to send immigrants to so-called sanctuary cities, a move many experts said would likely be illegal.

Following the passage of Senate Bill 54, the law signed by former Gov. Jerry Brown that limited cooperation between local law enforcement agencies and federal immigration agents, the Trump administration sued California to nullify it and two other laws designed to protect immigrants in the country illegally.

At least seven federal courts have ruled previous attempts by the Trump administration to cut off federal funding to cities and states, including California, for resisting cooperation with immigration authorities as unlawful. The U.S. Supreme Court also has ruled on several occasions that the federal government can’t coerce states and cities into helping it implement federal immigration policies.

Times staff writers Paloma Esquivel and Cindy Carcamo contributed to this report.


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