A watchdog group voted Tuesday to urge Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva to do more to distance his department from the work of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, saying the sheriff’s policies still allow for federal immigration contractors to take custody of inmates from inside the county jails.
In February, Villanueva began blocking ICE agents from accessing the secure parts of the county courthouses, Sheriff’s Department stations and county jails for the purposes of civil immigration matters and removed some of the criteria that would qualify a convicted inmate for transfer to ICE custody. He has also barred ICE from conducting interviews with inmates regarding their immigration status.
Villanueva’s promise to kick ICE agents out of the jails was central to his campaign to unseat former Sheriff Jim McDonnell last fall.
But a majority of members of the Sheriff Civilian Oversight Commission said Villanueva’s moves do not go far enough to separate his department from ICE and build community trust. Their recommendations — a version of which were initially proposed last year under McDonnell — say that Villanueva should stop allowing his employees to screen requests by ICE to take custody of inmates for civil immigration violations and should not let transport officers that contract with ICE to set foot inside secure department facilities.
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