L.A. Gang Members In Country Illegally May Face Quicker Deportation

L.A. gang members in country illegally may face quicker deportation

By Daisy Nguyen

7:15 p.m. April 5, 2007

LOS ANGELES City and county prosecutors said Thursday they are working more closely with federal officials to determine legal residency of suspected gang members, noting illegal immigrants appear to make up a significant portion of the gang population.

City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo said at a news conference that his office will begin forwarding the names of convicted gang members to federal authorities. If the U.S. attorney's office determines any are in the country illegally, they can begin proceedings that would eventually have the person deported after the local case is resolved.

Critics have long argued that inquiring about legal status would spread fear across immigrant communities and make it difficult for police to investigate crimes.

Delgadillo, however, said his office has found a substantial number of gang members being prosecuted are illegal immigrants. He does not believe the new policy will deter victims or witnesses from reporting crimes.

Many of the victims of these gangs are undocumented immigrants living in our city and follow the law, Delgadillo said. We encourage victims and witnesses to come forward, whether they're U.S. citizens or undocumented immigrants.

A survey recently found that more than 20 percent of Los Angeles County jail inmates and more than 10 percent of Orange County jail inmates were illegal immigrants.

Currently, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department serves as a conduit between Delgadillo's office and federal officials. City prosecutors confer with sheriff's officials to determine the immigration status of gang members arrested for various crimes. That information is then turned over to federal authorities.

Marty Vranicar, head of the city attorney's gang prosecution unit, said city prosecutors have been forwarding the names of convicted gang members to federal authorities on an ad hoc basis.

Now because of our unprecedented, new partnership with the U.S. attorney's office, now we got somebody who is willing to take that information and run with it, he said.

Three city prosecutors were recently assigned to the U.S. attorney's office to help prosecute gang cases that involve federal felonies.

Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley has proposed allocating some of his prosecutors to help federal attorneys go after gang members who illegally re-enter the country after being convicted of crimes and deported.

We should not have to wait for them to do another crime, Cooley told the Los Angeles Times. We need to identify transnational gang members and deport them.

Meanwhile, authorities said gang violence in Los Angeles has declined 12 percent in the three months since the Los Angeles Police Department began a gang crackdown.

That compares with a 15.7 percent increase in gang crimes in all of 2006 over 2005.

The recent push by police to reduce gang violence has included putting more officers on the street, appealing for federal anti-gang funds and publishing a Most Wanted-style list of the city's worst gangsters.