Sandra Emerson, Staff Writer
Posted: 05/28/2010 05:39:30 PM PDT

The passage of Arizona’s immigration law has brought California’s immigration policy into the debate.

Similar wording in the laws have caused some experts to question the call to boycott Arizona from California cities and individuals.

Although they agree that the laws have some similarities, there tends to be disagreement on the differences in the laws.

“Everybody is trying to say that we have a law just like Arizona’s law and it really isn’t. It has similarities, but the differences are pretty extraordinary,” said Tim Donnelly, a Republican candidate in the 59th District Assembly race and founder of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps of California.

Donnelly’s biggest quarrel with the comparison of the laws is that California’s policy allows police to inquire about a person’s legal status and call U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Arizona’s law allows police to arrest and detain a person suspected of violating a crime and who is suspected of being in the country illegally.

However, California’s policy is not enforced due to political reasons, Donnelly said.

“The ICE agent might want to come down there and pick up and deport those suspected to be illegally in the country, but they’re not allowed by their superiors,” he said. “So that’s really where the problem is, it’s not with the agents in the field.”

Unlike California policy, Arizona’s law addresses sanctuary cities and allows citizens to sue the government for not enforcing immigration laws.

The wording of Arizona’s law is much stronger than California’s, which has led Jose Calderon and other Latino activists to lobby against the Arizona law.

Calderon, a professor of sociology and Chicano studies at Pitzer College in Claremont, said the way the laws are written, there is a difference between police cooperation in checking for immigration status.

“I think that’s why there is such a clamor about it,” Calderon said. “It allows police officers to question anyone they suspect of being an undocumented immigrant and makes it a state crime to be in the state illegally.”

Lori Haley, a public affairs officer for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said ICE works with local law enforcement through various initiatives, but agencies tend to have their own policies.

Agencies “have their own policies and we represent that,” Haley said. “We have our job to do and we do it and try to work as best we can with what the local police do.”

The ICE section 287(g) program authorizes the secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to enter into agreements with state and local law enforcement agencies to allow designated officers to perform immigration law enforcement functions.

The San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department has implemented the program in its jails to identify criminal illegal aliens, said Cindy Beavers, sheriff’s spokesperson.

“There’s a whole series of questions that are asked to every single person who is booked into our facilities and during that time their legal status in the U.S. may come into question,” Beavers said.

At that point his paperwork is flagged and forwarded to an official with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, who would interview the inmate to determine whether or not he should be taken before an immigration judge, Beavers said.

The department’s implementation of 287(g) is the extent of their immigration enforcement, Beavers said.

“If we stop somebody, whether it’s a traffic stop or for some criminal activity, we don’t question what their immigration status is,” Beavers said. “We’re not immigration officers and Sheriff Hoops made that clear to all of his deputies.”

Since January 2006, the program has identified more than 70,000 individuals, mostly in jails, who are suspected of being in the country illegally, according to ICE.

There are 71 active agreements to use the program and more than 1,120 officers have been trained and certified.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department does not check for immigration status while on patrol, but it does assist the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) by interviewing inmates to be released from county jails, sheriff’s spokesman Steve Whitmore said.

“If they’re going to be released from the county jail, we interview foreign-born inmates and give that information to ICE. It’s random and it’s not an exact science,” Whitmore said.

However, he said that all gang members are interviewed to determine their immigration status before they are released.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department has also implemented the 287(g) program in its jails.

Congressman Gary Miller, R-Brea, said the boycott of Arizona being pursued by the city of Los Angeles is hypocrtical.

“They come back to Washington, D.C., every year wanting $100 million a year to incarcerate illegal immigrants,” he said.

“They want to go make this statement, but then want the federal government to pick up the cost of incarcerating the illegals in jails. You can’t have it both ways. You want to be a sanctuary city but want the federal government to pick up the cost.”

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