Suit Targets LAPD Over ‘Sanctuary Law’

Suit targets LAPD over 'sanctuary law'

By Jerry Seper
April 13, 2007

A lawsuit has been filed against the Los Angeles Police Department challenging its long-standing “sanctuary law” for illegal aliens — known as Special Order 40 — which bars its officers from asking about the immigration status of persons they encounter on duty.

Filed on Wednesday in Los Angeles Superior Court by activist attorney David Klehm on behalf of unidentified LAPD officers who argue the 30-year-old policy prevents the deportation of illegal aliens whom they repeatedly arrest, the suit would require the department to inform federal immigration officials when suspected illegals are arrested on drug charges.

Los Angeles was the first city to pass regulations prohibiting its employees, including police officers, from enforcing federal immigration laws. Sanctuary ordinances with varying details are now in place throughout the country, including New York, Chicago, San Francisco, San Diego, Houston and Austin, Texas.

Similar and still-pending lawsuits were filed last year by Judicial Watch against the LAPD and the Chicago Police Department — calling for an end to policies that prohibit police officers from inquiring about a person's immigration status.

Last month, the District-based public interest group also filed an open-records lawsuit against the Washington Metropolitan Police Department asking the court to compel the department to comply with an Aug. 10 Freedom of Information Act request seeking documents about its rules on the interaction between D.C. police and known or suspected illegals.

Immigration opponents argue that sanctuary laws encourage illegal entry. Some critics, including the District-based Federation of American Immigration Reform, have said the laws offer shelter for would-be terrorists by allowing illegal aliens to establish themselves as residents.

The National Council of La Raza has defended sanctuary laws, saying that collaboration between federal authorities and state and local municipalities is contrary to U.S. case law and results in racial profiling, police misconduct and civil rights violations. La Raza also has said it undermines community policing efforts and undercuts effective law-enforcement and anti-terrorism efforts by diverting resources and leading to additional litigation.

Both Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Police Chief William Bratton support Special Order 40, with the chief arguing that his department does not have the resources to work as immigration agents.

Mr. Klehm's lawsuit cites a section of the California Health and Safety Code saying that in drug cases involving a noncitizen, “the arresting agency shall notify the appropriate agency of the United States having charge of deportation.”

The Orange County, Calif.-based activist filed a similar suit against the San Jose Police Department a few weeks ago, seeking to compel that department to follow California law and report those they encounter who might be in the United States illegally to federal immigration authorities.

“We're not talking about getting the hound dogs out there and going after every illegal immigrant,” Mr. Klehm recently told reporters in San Jose. “We're just talking about people who committed crimes.”

The suit cited a study last year by the Government Accountability Office saying that of 55,322 illegal aliens incarcerated in federal, state and local jails during 2003, they had been arrested an average of eight times each, and that 49 percent had been convicted of a felony.