Police and a civil rights group are at odds over a police department policy.
The civil rights organization El Grupo is urging Hispanics to be careful traveling through Escondido, claiming that local police and federal immigration agents are targeting Latinos, trying to deport them. For their part, though, Escondido police say minorities have nothing to worry about in that city.
To be clear, however, Escondido police do work hand-in-hand with federal immigration agents, but police there say that they're looking only for dangerous criminals, gang members or suspects who have been repeatedly caught at the border.
Escondido's city flag proclaims it to be the City of Choice, but El Grupo's interpretation of the police department's policy is much more severe. According to the organization, Hispanics could be stopped by police and federal immigration agents working together and that their immigration status will be questioned and that they risk being deported.
El Grupo claims the city's policy will discourage Latino residents from calling the police for help or from cooperating with officers. Local law enforcement and federal immigration law should be separate issues, according to the civil rights group.
Escondido police confirm that at least three immigration agents are stationed in Escondido but still insist that those agents are looking only for criminals.
"The bottom line is if simply they are here illegally, they're not in felony proceedings, they're not in [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] proceedings, they're not a felony re-entry, there's not a current, active criminal case with them, then they're not going to be a subject to us even talking to ICE," said Lt. Craig Carter of the Escondido Police Department.
Carter said only one agent from ICE actually rides with police officers. He said that agent works exclusively with the gang detail and is looking for illegal immigrant gang members who have committed serious crimes. Carter said this policy has not changed since 1992.