Sheriff Lee Baca and the 287g Agreement in the LA County JAIL


The 287g Federal Agreement Program between the Department of Homeland Security DHS-ICE and the Sheriff of Los Angeles County is in effect in the City of the Angels. Aside from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement training of many sheriffs in the detection of undocumented prisoners, the agreement calls for ICE police to be stationed inside the largest jail system in the US. The agents are located in the prisoner release areas where their job is to interrogate just about all the Latino prisoners and identify all the potentially undocumented prisoners. Then in the early morning hours, with a shabby version of due process in place, all those who have agreed to voluntary leave the country are then lined up along a long hallway to receive a final dose of indoctrination and humiliation to discourage them not to ever come back to the US. Thereafter, they are escorted to federal buses for apparent deportation to indefinite places.

The ICE platoon in the Men’s side of the Twin Towers County Central Jail is primarily composed of Latinos with a 6.5’ White Anglo supervisor and they all wear Combat Squad like uniforms. Witnesses say the Immigration and Customs Enforcement troops are also stationed in all the large complexes, including the women’s jail in South Central Lynwood. The immigrant detection hunt of those suspected to have an irregular immigration status is also found in all the many sheriff stations and Superior Courts in LA County and these prisoners are stealthily transferred to the big houses. If the numbers already published are true, since the federal agreement was instituted with the LA Sheriffs, the quantity of deported undocumented immigrants maybe staggering.

The deportees include those arrested for minor crimes and temporary detainees, meaning people who should be freed immediately and who are probably the majority of those detected. The following story is an example of this probable reality:

· “Recently eight young Mexican men with roots in the southern state of Puebla were detained near a late night social gathering in East Los Angeles. This happened at an illegal house underground party which was advertised on the internet and with posters and party cards distributed widely the neighborhood. The place jumped at midnight with the great majority being young college students and workers. Like many communities throughout the US, in the last decade and half, the Poblanos have populated the Eastside by the thousands. Traditionally they are Salseros. At about 1 AM, as the Salsa whaled, an altercation erupted until shots were fired and the people began to look for cover and ran scared. The Sheriffs combed the streets and arrested the eight young men. Voluntarily they all declared a similar story; pleading their innocence and the fact they ran to escape the bullets. Naively, they all believed in the words of the jailers and the Station Commander who told them they would eventually be set free, without charges. But less than 24 hours later, without any explanation, the young workers that were English language deficient, were stealthily taken out of the station. The next day early in the morning, along with a large group of undocumented immigrants, they exited the county jail on their way to deportation”.

The way things are with the administration that promised Latinos “change you could really believe in” and presided by our new Nobel Peace Prize winner, it is necessary to confront the Los Angeles authorities with a series of media and mass protest actions in front of the LA County Jail. This to further dramatize this reality before the media and denounce to the nation and the international community the infamous 287g Program and demand that Sheriff Lee Baca and the Board of Supervisors immediately suspend the agreement. For the prolific but divided immigrant rights forces of Los Angeles, this will be the first direct confrontation with the elected Sheriff Lee Baca and the thinkers and message makers in this movement should make an elegant and diplomatic comparison of him “with his Phoenix colleague Joe Arpaio”. In practical terms, our Latino Sheriff is silently doing the same or more damage to our community. Why? For one, Los Angeles is the second largest city in the country with the biggest amount of undocumented residents and Latino population in general in the US. With all these deportations emanating from his overpopulated household, Baca is cynically collaborating with the brutal national policy of the massive separation of families, directed by DHS Director Janet Napolitano. Furthermore, the victims are primarily working people, many probably innocent, without criminal records. For certain, the removal will neutralize their future legalization, unless the upcoming law will contain a path to a pardon as in 1986. I will venture to say that the quantities of deportees are probably higher now than those conducted by Arpaio in Arizona.

On another plane, with this agreement, on top of the existing layers of institutional intolerance in the jail system, Baca is further contaminating the prison environment, intensifying the politics of racial profiling and racism which are historically manifested in a constant humiliation and mental mistreatment of Latinos and all prisoners of color. With the entrance of ICE into the local penal system, the government is opening the doors to the ideological sensitizing of this huge police force, thereby exacerbating the pre existing conditions of xenophobia, as well as the acceptance of this nationally discredited program. It can be speculated that this societal and negative sheriff mentality will spread unto the streets, if it hasn’t yet begun. At the same time, the fact that Los Angeles is one of the (70) 287g agreements in force nationally, it will scream as a model for other departments to follow.

On the other side, an opposing national movement has once again sprouted to denounce and demand a stop to the infamous politics of repression and this time is not against the ultra right, but the Obama administration. Unfortunately, the face of repression is the growing background to the future reform of immigration law, which is absolutely around the corner. To erode the 287g Agreement in Los Angeles requires mass social mobilization and it will take more than the small protests and separate media events of the present. In the struggle for social change and a better world, dialogue, maturity and unity are much better consigliores.

 

Javier Rodriguez, a Media-Political Strategist, is also a progressive journalist and for years published in the LA Times, La Opinion, Eastern Group Publications, Uno Mas Uno-Mexico, was syndicated nationally with Hispanic Link , and recently publishes in ZNET.org, Newtorkaztlan.com and STN’s Portaluno.com. He is now writing his experiences and perspective as a leading activist in the Immigrant rights movement, including the making of 25 March 2006 for which he was the initiator. Email bajolamiradejavier@yahoo.com.

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