Opinion: L.A. County’s kinder, gentler, totally immoral deportation scheme

On Tuesday the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 to end an obnoxious, counterproductive program in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), a.k.a. the guys who deport you if you’re here illegally. Under that contract, ICE agents could work in the county jails to seek out those who might be “deportable.”

“Immigrant activists complained that the program eroded immigrants’ trust in police and resulted in the deportations of people who had committed no crime or only minor infractions,” reported The Times’ Kate Linthicum and Joseph Tanfani.

At last! The politicians see sanity!

Not so fast.


In the same session, the supervisors also voted to replace the ICE program with a new, obnoxious, counterproductive one. Now, rather than allowing ICE agents to look for inmates to deport from inside the jails, county authorities will give ICE the release dates of inmates who are here illegally, so ICE can detain and deport them upon their release.

Before you start yelling at me on Twitter or firing off nasty emails — don’t get me wrong, I love the attention — I’d like to make clear that we aren’t talking about what administration officials call “the worst of the worst.”

“The agency’s data show that most of the 58,500 detainer requests this fiscal year didn’t target people convicted of the most serious crimes, called aggravated felonies. There are 16,384 people in that category. Nearly 14,000 were convicted only of misdemeanors, the figures show, and more than 20,746 don’t fit any of the three categories designated by Obama as priorities for deportation,” write Linthicum and Tanfani.

This isn’t a legal question. There is no doubt that it is perfectly legal to deport anyone who didn’t enter the United States legally.

The issue is one of pragmatism. For decades, we have left the borders essentially uncontrolled and unguarded, during which time large corporations and farmers, big and small, brazenly imported huge numbers of migrant workers without much enforcement by federal authorities. It seems a little crazy to start treating these people — many of whom were essentially invited to come here — like Osama bin Laden. That goes double when you add in the sociological implications of deporting key family members such as a father or a mother. Is it really in California’s, or America’s, best interest to retroactively enforce immigration laws in such a sweeping way at the cost of reducing an entire family to poverty?

By all means, when the authorities find an immigrant felon who doesn’t have any business being here, he or she should be deported. But when the crimes involved are minor, misdemeanors, it makes more sense to let people go after they’ve paid their debt to their new, American society — and provide them with a legal path to citizenship.

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