COSTA MESA UNPLUGGED:

EDITOR’S NOTE: Byron de Arakal’s column will run every Wednesday. Look for Tony Dodero’s column to appear Fridays.

It’s been a year since Jim Hayes saved Costa Mesa from itself. More on that coming up.

Hayes has had one of his Immigration and Customs Enforcement boys holed up in Costa Mesa’s slammer since January.

And in the dozen months since the director of ICE’s Los Angeles Detention and Removal arm passed on Mayor Allan Mansoor’s campaign to cross train Costa Mesa police officers as immigration filters — opting instead to assign his own charges to manage the deed — the illegal immigrant dragnet has been posting stellar numbers.

Hayes’ troops have collared 520 undocumented immigrants eligible for deportation. The haul has ranged from folks nabbed for infractions to career bad guys with hefty felony rap sheets.

But that’s about all you can say about ICE’s stay. It’s murky as to how many of these folks were actually deported. Or, worse, how many have returned.

The path back into the U.S. and Costa Mesa is as broad and uncluttered an immigration superhighway as it’s ever been. So whatever sampling of the CM 520 was sent packing to their countries of origin in 2007, it’s likely only on an abbreviated vacation from the succor of the American banquet hall and the streets of Costa Mesa.

So while it’s right, in principle, to deport illegal immigrants, the practical effects of Costa Mesa’s ICE experiment are at best elusive.

Rather, it’s more a fetching piece of political lingerie for the city’s politicians than it is an effective immigration enforcement tool. It’s a more potent opiate for the majority of Costa Mesans — who believe they are now safer because the politicians tell them they are — than it is a mechanism for keeping undocumented immigrants out of Costa Mesa.

Costa Mesa Police Chief Chris Shawkey isn’t making any claims the program has reduced crime in the city. He can’t prove it. The politicians can’t either.

At best, one can only say the Costa Mesa ICE regime has temporarily reduced the potential for crime in the city. But that is just as true if a second-generation Costa Mesan with a DUI on his record takes a weekender in Palm Springs.

None of this is to say ICE shouldn’t be a part of Costa Mesa’s law enforcement machinery. It’s just that its long-term effectiveness — and the presumption of certain city electeds that it makes us all safer — is questionable.

Until the federal government gins up the will and mobilizes the resources to lock the revolving door along U.S. borders, ICE in Costa Mesa — or in any municipality for that matter — will simply be in the business of temporarily relocations.

That aside, Jim Hayes still gets credit for saving us from a political, human resources and financial train wreck.

More than the existing program itself, Mansoor’s original plan to cross-train Costa Mesa police personnel to conduct immigration screening touched off one of the uglier political firestorms in Goat Hill’s history. The wounds still fester.

Worse, had Mansoor’s initiative come to pass, particularly given the number of immigration holds Hayes’ initiative has produced, thousands of cop hours would have been diverted from the streets to conduct screenings, manage the labyrinth of paperwork and transfer detainees to ICE custody.

And, for what? Nothing more than the temporary relocation of a few hundred folks who’d simply crawl through the open windows of the U.S. borders and be back in town before the season changes.

Costa Mesa’s streets are safer because our police force is on them. We can thank Hayes for that.


BYRON DE ARAKAL is a former Costa Mesa parks and recreation commissioner. Readers can reach him at cmunplugged@yahoo.com.

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