The immigrants rights crowd in Los Angeles may be about to hit a Sarah Palin-sized jackpot of possibly inane, possibly explosive correspondence between the L.A. County Sheriff's Department and immigration feds.
Sheriff Lee Baca, head of the department -- largest of its kind in the country -- initially blew off activists' requests for the documents. He also wouldn't let them see the amount of money the Sheriff's Department has spent on deportations, the number of immigrants deported (through various programs, including the notorious Secure Communities mandate, a favorite of Baca's) and the types of crimes for which immigrants were deported.
When slapped with a California Public Records Act lawsuit...
... Baca went so far as to file a motion blocking the CPA request. (A pretty good sign that there's some dirt in the stacks.) But as of today, the judge has thrown that bologna back in his face, and is allowing the trial to play out.
If the sheriff's correspondence with Immigration and Customs Enforcement is anywhere near as juicy as the Big Brothery crap recently uncovered in a similar national lawsuit, Baca's in for Part II of his shame campaign as top brass. (Part I being, of course, the horrific beatings that have gone on under his nose, at the hands of his hired jail supervisors.)
If the judge does eventually force Baca to turn over the goods, one especially hard-hitting discovery -- given the California prison system's broke-ass circumstances -- could be the cost of keeping undocumented immigrants in county jail while ICE gets around to deporting them.
Because if manslaughter-er Conrad Murray is allowed to limp around on house arrest while some ice cream vendor is locked behind bars, sucking up jail resources, even PR magic-maker Steve Whitmore can't tidy up that juxtaposition.
"The sheriff's current practice is that when they have a suspicion that someone might be undocumented, they keep them in jail until ICE can come to get them," says Jessica Karp, an attorney for the National Day Laborer Organizing Network . "As far as we've seen, they always honor that."
Back when Baca attempted to block the CPA request, sheriff's spokesman Whitmore told the Weekly that "a lot of times, things can't be publicly released because of personnel records."
He said the documents in question were "the propriety of ICE -- so it's up to them to release it."
One argument Baca made in his motion was that much of the requested information was confidential, because the sheriff's contracts with ICE stipulate that the inner workings of joint local-federal programs aren't for public viewing.
However, immigrant attorney Karp says the judge ruled today that "neither the sheriff nor ICE can contract away state law." (State law being the California Public Records Act, one of our personal faves.)
Reaction from Carl Bergquist, Secure Communities specialist for the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles:
"As we have seen in similar cases, both locally and nationally, these attempts to withhold information from the public may be undemocratic but ultimately they prove to be futile. We have a right to know how and why our elected Sheriff -- in a time of declining crime -- is collaborating with the Federal Government to deport community members who in no way, shape or form are threats to public safety."
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Hopefully the rest of this case won't take as many twists and turns as the never-ending Prop. 8 trial -- we're itching to see some more atrocious Obama-era immigration stats, to counter his administration's flimsy amnesty pledges.
We know they're in there somewhere, smothered by a tower of bloody personnel complaints at Sheriff's Department headquarters. And Baca's Muslim supporters won't be able to talk him out of this one, seeing as not racially profiling is precisely what they love him for.