LA Supes Votes YES on Controversial ICE Partnership….Prop 47 Gathers Support & LA Times Endorses……& A New Tanaka FanOctober 8th, 2014 by Celeste Fremon
On Tuesday, the LA County Board of Supervisors voted to keep a controversial immigration policy known as 287(g), making LA only one of two counties in the state to continue to implement the 1996 statute that permits the federal government to delegate immigration enforcement powers to state and local law enforcement.
Both Riverside and San Bernardino recently chose to halt participation with 287(g), making Orange County and LA the sole California holdouts.
LA would use 287(g) only in the the LA County jails, where immigration agents are embedded, and custody personnel are trained to screen inmates for immigration status.
Supervisors Gloria Molina, Mike Antonovich and Don Knabe voted for the measure, while Zev Yaroslavsky and Mark Ridley-Thomas abstained.
According to KPCC's Leslie Berestein Rojas, one of the biggest reasons that the Supes and the LASD leadership favored the policy has to do with money.
Here's a clip from Berestein Rojas' story:
"It helps us maintain better records for the purpose of reimbursement from the federal government," said Anna Pembedjian, justice deputy for County Supervisor Michael Antonovich, a supporter of 287(g).
What Pembedjian is referring to is a federal grant program known as SCAAP, for State Criminal Alien Assistance Program. Counties like Los Angeles are partially reimbursed by the Department of Justice for incarcerating certain foreign-born criminals, and the better they can document their inmate population, the better their reimbursement chances.
But in recent years, funding has been cut. Los Angeles County’s annual SCAAP award has gone from roughly $15 million in the late 2000s to about $3.4 million in 2014.
The county now gets reimbursed roughly 10 cents on the dollar for every SCAAP-eligible foreign inmate, Pembedjian said. Less than before, but it’s money the county would otherwise still have to spend.
“When these individuals are arrested and serving time in our jails, we have no alternative but to provide them with the housing, the mental health care, the medical care, food and security, which costs the county taxpayers millions of dollars every year,” Pembedjian said. “It is imperative for the county to recover the money from the federal government, otherwise if forces cuts in other vital services.”
Supervisor Gloria Molina, who was one of the three on the board who voted to keep the program, cited public safety as the her primary motivation.
But Hector Villagra, executive director of the ACLU of Southern California, said such a rationale was flawed.
"Sadly, the supervisor has chosen to ignore a mountain of evidence, including DHS’ own published statistics on the program that clearly indicate that vast majority of individuals deported under the 287(g) agreement had not been convicted of a serious crime, or had no criminal history. In 2010, 80% of the people identified for deportation under this program were not convicted of a serious felony."
Indeed, according to a 2011 report by the Migration Policy Institute, nationally, 50 percent of those snatched by the program have committed felonies or other crimes that ICE considers serious. The other half of those detained have committed misdemeanors and/or have been involved in traffic accidents.
Prior to the vote, Villagra and the So Cal ACLU had urged board members to wait until a new sheriff is chosen in November to make up their minds on 287(g). But, as with the two billion dollar jail building decision (about which they were similarly asked to hold off until November) the board declined to delay the vote.
"It is inconceivable that our County leadership has chosen to continue a failed program that has already been abandoned in over 250 jurisdictions throughout the nation- including the City of Los Angeles," said Maria Elena Durazo, of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, and Angelica Salas, Director of Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA), in a joint statement.
Yes, well, apparently it's not so inconceivable. But it is very disappointing.
PROP 47 AHEAD IN THE POLLS & THE LA TIMES ENDORSES IT
The New York Times' Erik Eckholm reports that, at the moment, Proposition 47 appears poised to pass, with the September poll by the Public Policy Institute showing 62 percent of voters in favor, 25 against. As you likely know, Prop 47 is the initiative that would reclassify a list of low-level felonies as misdemeanors making them punishable by at most one year in a county jail and, in many cases, by probation and counseling. The changes would apply retroactively, shortening the sentences of thousands already in prison or jails.
Although most district attorneys, and many law enforcement organizations (including the California Police Chief's Association) are against the initiative, San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón, the former SF police chief and former second in command for the LAPD, has become one of the measure's champions. And 47 has gathered strong support among some prominent conservatives, as well as liberals, and moderates, writes the Times' Eckholm.
Large donations in support have come from the Open Society Policy Center, a Washington-based group linked to George Soros; the Atlantic Advocacy Fund, based in New York; Reed Hastings, the chief executive of Netflix; and Sean Parker, the former president of Facebook.
But the largest single donor is B. Wayne Hughes Jr., a conservative Christian businessman and philanthropist based in Malibu. In one of the most tangible signs yet of growing concern among conservatives about the cost and impact of incarceration, Mr. Hughes has donated $1.255 million.
Mr. Hughes said he had been inspired by the late Chuck Colson to start prison ministry programs in California, and that his firsthand contact with prisoners and their families convinced him that the current heavy reliance on incarceration is often counterproductive.
“This is a model that doesn’t work,” he said in an interview. “For the $62,000 cost of a year in prison, you can send three kids to college,” he said. “But for me, it’s not just about the money, it’s about our fellow citizens who are hurting.”
Mr. Hughes was joined by Newt Gingrich as co-author of an op-ed in The Los Angeles Times urging citizens to vote yes....
The LA Times is the latest to endorse Proposition 47, saying that it will help California make more intelligent use of its criminal justice and incarceration resources, including the allocation of resources "to curb the likelihood of [lawbreakers] committing new crimes."
The San Francisco Chronicle endorsed 47 late last month.
Here's a clip from the Times' endorsement editorial:
Proposition 47 would do a great deal to stop the ongoing and unnecessary flow of Californians to prison for nonviolent and nonserious offenses and would, crucially, reduce the return flow of offenders from prison back to their neighborhoods in a condition — hardened by their experience, hampered by their felony records, unready for employment or education, likely mentally ill or addicted — that leaves them only too likely to offend again. It is a good and timely measure that can help the state make smarter use of its criminal justice and incarceration resources. The Times strongly recommends a "yes" vote on Proposition 47.
The measure has three parts. It would reduce sentences in California for a handful of petty crimes — drug possession and some types of theft, such as shoplifting — that currently are chargeable as either misdemeanors or felonies but should be just misdemeanors. It would open a three-year window during which inmates serving felony sentences for these crimes could apply to have their sentences reduced. And it would direct the savings from lowering the prison population to be spent on the kinds of things that, as data have shown time and again, keep significant numbers of former inmates from re-offending: substance abuse and mental health treatment, reentry support and similar services that also help crime-battered neighborhoods. Much of the savings would also be spent on truancy prevention and support for crime victims.
Opponents offer arguments that are familiar for their fear-mongering tactics but are new in some of their particulars: baseless yet ominous warnings that waves of dangerous criminals will be released; odd predictions about, of all things, date rape; acknowledgment that current sentencing is often excessive and counterproductive, but excuses for not previously having made sensible changes.
The LA Times board notes that it's too bad that such sentencing reform requires an initiative, that changes of this nature should ideally be accomplished by a non-political sentencing commission, or at the very least by state lawmakers but....dream on.
...experience shows that lawmakers, so comfortable with adding new crimes and increasing sentences, are generally incapable of lowering them in the face of pressure from law enforcement and victims' interest groups, even when overwhelming evidence points to better safety, greater savings and other positive outcomes from decreased penalties.
So a proposition is what we have---and one the Times contends will be a boon for even some of its critics:
One likely benefit of Proposition 47 is not advertised but could make a real difference: With fewer crimes charged as felonies, there would be far fewer preliminary hearings (they are not needed for misdemeanor charges), which means fewer police officers pulled off the streets to wait around in courthouses to testify, less preparation time needed by deputy district attorneys and deputy public defenders, and less of a drain on local law enforcement and criminal justice budgets. It is one of many ways in which Proposition 47 would be a step forward for California.
FORMER CANDIDATE FOR SHERIFF ENDORSES PAUL TANAKA. (YES, REALLY.)
In a slightly odd turn of events, former candidate for LA County Sheriff, retired LASD lieutenant Patrick Gomez, just endorsed former undersheriff Paul Tanaka for the job according to a release from Tanaka's campaign.
This wouldn't be quite so peculiar were it not for the fact that Gomez spent part of nearly every candidate debate during the primary slamming Tanaka in particular.
For instance, here is what the Daily News reported after one of the early debates:
“Gomez, meanwhile, attacked Tanaka, who had been Baca’s second in command…. “I’m going to request that the FBI request a forensic audit,” Gomez said. “Tanaka talked about being a CPA, yet the auditor released a report in January that said $138 million were mishandled from special accounts within this department. Who was responsible for that?
‘These people talk about there’s been a lack of leadership — (but) these are the leadership people — they’re the assistant sheriff and the undersheriff, current and past. We’ve got to hold them accountable when we vote on June 3rd.’ ”
We guess that everyone's entitled to change his mind if he so desires. We'd just be very curious to know what new points of view persuaded Lt. Gomez to change his in this matter.