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Why Won’t Lee Baca Release All the Records on LA’s Costly Participation in “Secure Communities?”


This week, a New York based justice advocacy organization called Justice Strategies released a report that looked at the dollar cost of LA County’s participation in the Department of Homeland Security’s “Secure Communities” program, in which local law enforcement—in this case the LA County Sheriff’s Department—detains undocumented residents. It turns out that LA is spending $26 million a year on these Secure Communities prisoners—and it may be that we are keeping these same prisoners far longer than necessary in our already overcrowded jails.

Justice Strategies got their numbers through a lawsuit filed by the National Day Laborer Organizing Network.under the Public Records Act, but still the LASD held back some of the most crucial information requested, as the LA Times notes in an important editorial that ran earlier this week.

The report and the editorial bring up several large questions that demand further discussion. But, before we get there, first a rundown by on how Secure Communities works. Here’s how Roxandra Guild of KPCC explains it.

Here’s how Secure Communities works: When local law enforcement makes any arrest, the detainees’ fingerprints are sent to a federal database. If the person is deportable, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) will ask local law enforcement to keep the person in detention for no more than 48 hours, until federal agents can transfer that person to one of its facilities.

The report from New York-based advocacy organization Justice Strategies puts a dollar figure on L.A. County’s spending for immigrant detention. The report says the cost is so high because county jails hold undocumented immigrants, on average, for 20 days — not the mandated 48 hours.

So here are the questions:

1. Why was progressive lawman Baca so eager to leap into this controversial program way back in 2009?

2. Why, given that the county’s jails are so overcrowded that the sheriff plans to ship some of the inmates off to other areas of the state, does the Los Angeles Sheriff Department hold the ICE detainees an average of 20 days rather than the federally required 48 hours? This is an average of 17 days longer than legal residents facing the same criminal charge, notes the LA Times. Seriously, what’s that about?

3. What’s in it for Baca? Although the taxpayers of LA County are taking a hit with Secure Communities, is the LASD making a profit on the detentions?

Maybe not. But our suspicions would be better quelled if the sheriff would release those records that reveal how many immigrants were held for what length of time, and on what charges.

This is not a topic that should be allowed to let slide.


  • Baca has NOT released the info because(until recently)he(nor anyone else) knew where the report was!? Now, remember Tanaka is an accountant and it’s time to “cook the books.” I know let’s ask the DA or the AG to look into the probable criminal issues in the case! Where is Kamala these days? Cooley is in the tank for Baca so no help locally or at the state level! Let’s have Paris Hilton look into it!

  • Great program. Illegal aliens who commit crimes in Los Angeles should be jailed as long as possible. Maybe this will serve as a deterrent. Keep up the good work.

  • If the federal government would let immigration enforcement do their job we wouldn’t have this massive problem. We are being critical of the wrong people folks. Start shipping illegals home and keep them out. Have we forgotten that their presence in this country constitutes a crime??

  • Nonsense: I agree that the laws are not being obeyed and both parties are equally to blame. But, being in the country illegally is NEITHER a felony nor a misdemeanor. I believe I’m right! The government has turned many good people into victims with the mentality of entitlement. Why should anyone obey the law when all those who violate the law are getting the breaks? I know; let’s give them work permits! In this way anyone with a backbone will soon submit to government sanctioned slavery!


    It is a misdemeanor to enter the country in an unsanctioned manner, a violation of Title 8 of the U.S. criminal code punishable by a fine of between $50 and $250 and/or a maximum of six months in jail. But you have to be pretty much caught in the act. Plus if you’re a first time offender, you’re usually just deported. Otherwise, the courts in border states would grind to a halt with zillions of cases.

    However being here in the country illegally, “Illegal presence” as the offense is called, is not a violation of the U.S. criminal code. A person cannot be sent to jail or prison for being here without authorization from immigration authorities. It is, however, a violation of civil immigration laws, for which the federal government can impose civil penalties, namely deportation.

    If you’ve been deported in the past, however, and you are found to be here illegally, that is a felony and you can be subject to imprisonment as well as deportation.

  • C: In other words we have penalties but they are not being enforced! So, all this debate is really pointless! Perhaps that’s what I understood that being illegal was not against the US Criminal Code. Thanks for the facts!

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