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California Attorney General Kamala Harris is telling local police agencies that it is up to them whether to comply with the federal government's request to hold illegal immigrants.
California’s top cop said immigration holds are "requests" not "commands" and now San Diego County’s law enforcement agencies are deciding how they will respond.
State Attorney General Kamala Harris issued a law enforcement bulletin Tuesday saying that complying with the federal government's Secure Communities program is voluntary.
So if there is a federal immigration hold placed on someone taken into custody, local law enforcement can decide if they want to honor that hold she said.
This is after a review showed that the secure communities program had deported too many people who were not criminals.
Agencies from the Chula Vista police department to the San Diego County sheriff’s department told NBC 7 San Diego Wednesday that they were still meeting internally to decide their response to the bulletin.
The San Diego police department told KPBS that those illegal immigrants who are arrested or charged are not automatically turned over to the feds.
San Diego Executive Assistant Police Chief David Ramirez told the website that the SDPD wants people to come to them in the case of a crime and not fear deportation.
The bulletin received a lot of support from immigrant rights groups but local activist Pedro Rios says it still comes late in the game, after more than 400,000 people were deported last year under the Secure Communities program.
“It makes clear that ICE holds are not obligatory by local law enforcement and that's an important step that has caused a lot of confusion especially for the sheriff's department in San Diego County," Rios said.
Former federal prosecutor John Owens says that decision may help rebuild trust between immigrant communities and local law enforcement but it's still problematic.
Owens said the announcement could encourage each police agency to create its own policy.
“The fact that Imperial County might enforce it differently than San Francisco, or San Diego greatly complicates the matter," Owens said. “In my personal experience if you have really bad people who've committed very serious crimes we should get them out of here."