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Policy to check for illegal immigrants

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Posted: Tuesday, April 1, 2008 10:00 pm

Twice since last October, Juan Antonio Velazquez was arrested and booked into the Lodi jail.

Each time, he stayed in the city jail until he was arraigned in court and released from custody because the charges were not serious enough to keep him in custody, especially since the county jail is overcrowded.

It took until his third arrest - on a homicide case - for Lodi police to learn that Velazquez had entered the United States illegally.

The Lodi Police Department will soon have a policy in place to avoid such things, and immigration checks will fall to jailers once they receive training this spring.

Velazquez previously fell through the cracks because officers book suspects at the jail, while dispatcher/jailers lock them up. Nobody had really thought about checking each arrested person's immigration status, or who should make such checks.

"This was something that was never part of jailers' and officers' training," Officer Dale Eubanks said. "Typically the police officer arrests someone for a crime, gets them in custody and then goes on to the next call."

And it is not as easy as asking someone for a birth certificate when they are arrested - after all, who carries birth records with them?

For that matter, if someone lies to police, officers might have strong suspicions, but they have no way of confirming whether it is the truth until taking fingerprints and running them through databases. If the suspect recently entered the country, that search might not turn up any results, anyway.

In the case of Velazquez, he was booked into the city jail, taken to court and then released from custody on his promise to appear at future court appearances - which he did.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is responsible for finding and deporting those who are in the country illegally. In the last fiscal year, ICE identified more than 164,000 illegal immigrants incarcerated in jails and prisons, and deported 95,000 who had criminal histories.

The department screens inmates in all federal and state prisons, and in about 10 percent of the country's 3,100 jails.

Under the Criminal Alien Program, teams of agents are being sent across the country to handle requests from local law enforcement agencies. Almost 100 teams are currently working, and another 30 teams will be sent out this fiscal year.

The San Francisco-area CAP teams identified almost 19,000 incarcerated illegal immigrants last year, and nearly 7,000 had criminal histories and were deported.

Source: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement

Both cases were dismissed in court, meaning that he never had to serve time in the county jail, where the system would have flagged him.

The immigration confirmation process itself is not hard, Eubanks said. If someone is suspected of being in the country illegally, a jailer or officer fills out a form and faxes it to Immigrations and Customs Enforcement. An agent calls within about 10 minutes and can even interview the suspect by phone, asking questions that have been perfected through training and experience.

In larger jails, such as the San Joaquin County Jail in French Camp, the process is basically automated. All booking information is entered in a computer system, which generates a list of all people born outside the United States, Deputy Les Garcia said. Immigration officials get that list and use it to determine which people should be interviewed and be placed on no-bail holds.

That is how it is done at the Sacramento County Jail, where on any given day at least 20 to 30 people are being housed solely on immigration holds, Sgt. Tim Curran said.

Some large departments have received special monthlong training from ICE, through section 287g of the Immigration and Nationality Act. The process basically deputizes local officers as immigration agents, and they can actually start deportation proceedings.

It is not something ICE recommends for smaller departments such as Lodi's, Lodi Police Capt. Gary Benincasa said, partly because it would stretch existing police resources. Additionally, ICE agents are easily accessible so officers can contact them with little trouble.

The training also comes with its own drawbacks, because it turns law enforcement officers into immigration agents. Even the much larger Sacramento County Sheriff's Department is not interested in such training, Curran said.

Not only does it raise issues of racial profiling allegations - which can be costly legal battles - but it can work against police who are trying to solve and prevent crimes.

"We're here to help everyone who needs us," said Sgt. Gerald Stoffel of the Galt Police Department, which books people into the Sacramento County jail and lets jailers handle immigration matters.

"If they're witnesses, we don't want them running away. We want to build their trust," Stoffel added.

He, like Lodi officials, remembers a time when officers did enforce immigration laws merely by contacting people on the street, detaining them and referring them to border patrol agents.

But laws changed, racial profiling lawsuits increased and immigration officials could not keep up with the number of referrals, Lodi Police Chief David Main said.

In December, Lodi police employees began talking about a way to improve immigration checks. One general consensus, Main said, was that officers should enforce state and local laws and leave federal laws to those employees.

They also wanted to meet with immigration officials to get their advice so the process would run smoothly. ICE, in turn, recommended that jailers be trained to handle the process.

Jailers will not be immigration agents, but the training will help them ask proper questions, know who to call and also reassure ICE that the calls are legitimate. That training had to be rescheduled but should be done in about a month, Main said.

Contact reporter Layla Bohm at layla@lodinews.com.

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Welcome to the discussion.


  • posted at 4:57 am on Tue, Apr 8, 2008.


    I really think the LPD should have something better in place to check for this. We tax payers are tired of the illegal's that fill this town.

  • posted at 3:29 am on Tue, Apr 8, 2008.


    Cogito wrote on Apr 2, 2008 8:32 AM:

    Regarding your post.

    STOP! My side is hurting from laughing so much. OH YA

  • posted at 3:13 am on Tue, Apr 8, 2008.


    Here in Phoenix Sheriff Joe Arpaio is rounding up illegal immigrants even though he has been met with protests from Phoenix Mayo Phil Gordon and the Phoenix police chief.

    I'm so tired of the pandering here by Gordon and his cronies. Sheriff Joe is just doing his job.

  • posted at 11:14 pm on Mon, Apr 7, 2008.


    If the US government seriously worked to stop this illegal invasion, then the unification of Mexico, Canada and America could not happen. Bush already agreed to and signed the (SSP) Security Prosperity Partnership between America, Canada & Mexico. With our corrupt government, demos and repubs, we are quickly becoming a socialist and facist government without borders. And with the socialists Obama, Hillary and McCain it will only happen quicker. They have all promoted and supported open borders while the republicans have done nothing to seriously stop the invasion.

  • posted at 12:00 pm on Mon, Apr 7, 2008.


    Send the bill to the nearest Consulate Office.

  • posted at 6:49 am on Mon, Apr 7, 2008.


    For every ILLEGAL in our penal system, we should charge their native country for what it cost U.S taxpayers.Let Mexico pay for incarcerating their citizens who enter America illegally and commit crimes. If the are deported, let Mexico pay for the cost of deportation. Surely we have some economic leverage to make this happen.

  • posted at 6:13 am on Sat, Apr 5, 2008.


    Start doing your job LPD, The department should be checking the status at all times, Why should the people of lodi support the LPD when we have a serious illegal problem in this town

  • posted at 6:07 am on Sat, Apr 5, 2008.


    Until the Goverment starts going after all the Business that hire Illegals & Fine them, We are stuck with this Serious Illegal Undocumanted problem that is all over, I work for a company that if you are not legal you will not have a job, we work with contractors & other business that let us know up front, No illegal's are to be on the job site's. we all need to inforce this.

  • posted at 2:34 am on Fri, Apr 4, 2008.


    Accoss our nation, local jurisdictions are taking responsibility for the federal government to deal with the illegal alien problem.

    Again, the federal government has no intentions of having any border security.

  • posted at 3:30 pm on Thu, Apr 3, 2008.


    Hey Dogbark, I was just having fun and picking on those pesky Canadians. But you know, someone is dead because those who we charge with keeping the bad guys away from the good guys, dropped the ball. Illegals make up 3% of our population, and 17% of our federal prisoners. Not everyone who sneaks into the U.S. wants to work hard and build a better future for their progeny. We need to weed out the drug dealers, thieves, rapists, and murderers. Our government is in charge of protecting us. They need to do their job, politically correct or not.

  • posted at 8:32 am on Thu, Apr 3, 2008.


    Cogito, I had an employee whose father used to call up, "Hey,bonjerno, issa my dottera ina atta da worka today?"
    (He was a LEGAL immigrant.) Guess what, none of his kids talked that way, had no accent at all, and none had bothered to learn Italian (only he and the wife spoke it when needing to talk 'around' the kids.) But today, the bnarrio's with their cash economy have second and third generation non- or poor English speakers. Why? Because if you completely embrace the American way, your success rests on your own shoulders. No blaming race.

  • posted at 7:09 am on Thu, Apr 3, 2008.


    Why the common sense of it all almost hurts!
    First the LPD; then train our hospital staff, then the school administrators... Don't leave them anyplace to hide but the sweres. If we don't watch out we'll deport all our criminals... then what will we do? I guess we'll just have to go back to not locking all our doors and windows 24 hours a day.

  • posted at 4:53 am on Thu, Apr 3, 2008.


    You can tell by the comments people are tired of this it happens way to often, Send them all back, I'm sorry but if thay love their country so much, then can go back & change what you can. Learn English, Learn the laws, Enter the State in a correct way, Dont make a joke out of it. Lodi is so over crowded with this, How long will we have to put up with this garbage in this not so loveable town. Born & Raised in lodi & not proud of it.

  • posted at 4:17 pm on Wed, Apr 2, 2008.


    Glad to hear so many positive responses to ensure America's future. Now it is time to deport! Time to deport all the illegals, sorry kids... you too! I am not gonna pay for your education & health care> LEAVE!

    Look at ANY school in Lodi during recess: What do you see? I am not being racist, I am being a taxpayer! Do the MATH! Who contributes what?????

    Good Job LPD! With Chief Main at the helm, hopefully we will progress.

  • posted at 1:10 pm on Wed, Apr 2, 2008.


    To Moderate: Quoting:"its an issue of larger social issues --- this man should never have gotten out (of prison). Well well well, if it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck it just might be a duck. Lets go one step further. IF HE WAS NOT ANOTHER ILLEGAL ALIEN (CRIMINAL) IN THE USA, we wouldn't have to put him in prison for his crimes. So as I say "GO BACK!"

    Perhaps "Moderate" would feel more comfortable in SFO where today Mayor Newsome allocated $88k to encourage illegals "to come out" of "hiding".

  • posted at 12:59 pm on Wed, Apr 2, 2008.


    There has been too many killings in this town.This is not liveable, loveable, Lodi anymore. It seems to me that we need to get stronger about a lot of things in this town that need to be fixed. Illegal immigration is a major issue and needs to be dealt with Lodi. WAKE UP!

  • posted at 12:29 pm on Wed, Apr 2, 2008.


    The key word is ILLEGAL. I truly believe the LPD should have something much better in place to check for this, The people are sick & tired of this. Send all illegals back.

  • posted at 10:09 am on Wed, Apr 2, 2008.


    To: OTH

    Deport them again, and their kids too!

  • posted at 10:08 am on Wed, Apr 2, 2008.


    Just to make light of the serious illegal immigrant problem that plagues dear ol' Lodi and to poke fun at Hillary, a great quote that I heard...

    "Calling an illegal alien an "undocumented immigrant" is like calling a drug dealer an "unlicensed pharmacist"

    I feel bad for the guy who was killed in order to find out Valazquez was ILLEGAL. Good thing Lodi PD is finally making an attempt to catch these criminals and deport em'.

    Deport Pedro!

  • posted at 9:27 am on Wed, Apr 2, 2008.


    Just one question, what do you do with the ones who have already been deported 8 or 9 times and still manage to come back?

  • posted at 8:05 am on Wed, Apr 2, 2008.


    Leave it to one incident to get you all rialed up and make irrational decisions. This is not an issue of immigration, its an issue of the prison system and largr social issues. I think LPD is doing a great job with what they have, but there are some real issues when the US has the largest number of incarcerated people than any other industrial country. This man should have never gotten out

  • posted at 6:38 am on Wed, Apr 2, 2008.


    And if you call INS on the illegal status of an individual.....they tell you to contact your local law enforcement agency.....sheesh!!

  • posted at 6:07 am on Wed, Apr 2, 2008.


    "Nobody had really thought about checking each arrested person's immigration status, or who should make such checks."

    That statement boggles the mind. Residents have been screaming for this sort of thing to be done for YEARS. Was no one listening? This pass-the-buck-back-to-the-Feds mentality has got to go. But I guess local officials (of any jurisdiction, not just Lodi) can't be held responsible if it's "not their job", right?

  • posted at 3:55 am on Wed, Apr 2, 2008.


    Finally common sense has appeared to have prevailed! Now let`s see how long it takes the ACLU or other left-wing fringe group to challenge it in court!

  • posted at 3:40 am on Wed, Apr 2, 2008.


    It is wrong
    to look the other way
    for the sake of
    being politically correct.

  • posted at 3:32 am on Wed, Apr 2, 2008.


    You know, I'm willing to risk the chastisement of being politically incorrect here, but if the perp doesn't speak English, or speaks it poorly, maybe an immigration status check would be in order. It's usually a pretty big red flag if you ask me. I think this is just laziness on the part of the PD. It could be done with minimal invasiveness to the individual. I would think that a legal immigrant would carry some form of I.D. If the person ends their sentences with "eh", they're likely an illegal Canadian, unless they have a Minnesota drivers license.

  • posted at 2:40 am on Wed, Apr 2, 2008.


    I think that its kinda funny that in a state thats running rampant with immigration problems that there wasn't already a policy in place. I'm from Oregon and there in every jail everyone booked is checked.

  • posted at 2:35 am on Wed, Apr 2, 2008.


    Yeah!!! Finally my letters to the City Council worked. They are getting the training at the LPD. Now, people need to take to the streets to show the illegals, especially the anchor baby stroller pushers, that they are not welcome in our town. America, be a part of it legally or get out!

  • posted at 2:34 am on Wed, Apr 2, 2008.


    We live on the far left coast, liberal politicians will never act on these illegal aliens. Voters passed prop. 187 by over 57%, within days it was left for dead by a progressive judge appointed by former president Carter. Gov. Gray Davis made sure it didn't come up for debate in court, he just ignored the will of the people, wonder why people don't bother to vote.

  • posted at 2:28 am on Wed, Apr 2, 2008.


    Finally, someone has decided to limit the incidence of crime! Thank you LPD! Whoever thought of this solution should get a raise. We finally recognize that "illegal aliens" are ILLEGAL. We should also start charging those in custody who lie about their immigration status. No more kiss on the cheek and see you next week. This is an inexpensive approach to combatting crime in Lodi. The gangbangers and dopers can GO BACK. Try to illegally enter Mexico, illegally work, break the law, use drugs and lie to police and see what happens! que lastima! adios!

  • posted at 2:16 am on Wed, Apr 2, 2008.


    Isn't there something that we, as U.S. citizens, can do to change this? Other states are getting rid of illegals, why not California? I was so glad to hear that they are going to clamp down on illegals but, sadly, it is too late for the ones who have already died because of them.

  • posted at 2:03 am on Wed, Apr 2, 2008.


    Why can't social workers at the hospital report patients that are illegal citizens to the police dept at time of discharge? Why must the tax payers continue to foot the bill for illegal citizens who are putting our hospitals out of business by sheer number of them, and many repeat visits---especially to the clinics?!?!



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