Los Angeles police officers say that some of the most cutthroat criminals are illegal immigrants, says the New York Times, but police complain that they cannot use immigration status to apprehend a convicted criminal who was ordered deported. Under the so-called sanctuary policy, police rules in Los Angeles prohibit officers from inquiring about someone’s immigration status with the federal authorities unless that person is being charged with a crime.
The policy, adopted in 1979, was intended to protect immigrants from harassment and to encourage them to use public services without fear of deportation. Immigrants can enroll their children in schools, get health care and come forward when they witness a crime. But the policy provides a safe harbor for criminals. “You are so concerned with the lambs, you don’t see the wolves,” said Capt. Charlie Beck, commanding officer of the Rampart District in in central Los Angeles that is home to 30,000 gang members. At least 1,000 of them, Beck estimates, were deported after committing violent crimes, but returned. Nationally, 80,000 to 100,000 illegal immigrants who have been convicted of serious crimes walk freely on the streets.