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San Diego Law Enforcement Won’t Change Immigration Enforcement Policies Under Trump

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The San Diego Police Department seal is seen on an officer's uniform in this undated photo.

The San Diego police and sheriff's departments said they do not intend to change their relationships with federal immigration enforcement agencies when President-elect Donald Trump takes office.

The San Diego police and sheriff's departments told KPBS Wednesday they will not change their policies on immigration enforcement under President-elect Donald Trump, who has said he will aggressively seek deportations for individuals living in the country illegally.

Currently, San Diego officers do not check the immigration status of victims or witnesses.

When it comes to suspects in custody, Chief Shelley Zimmerman said in a statement “the primary responsibility for the enforcement of Federal immigration laws rests with the United States Customs and Border Protection Services.”

In an emailed statement, the San Diego County Sheriff's Department said immigration officials are stationed at its booking facilities, and they determine whether a detainee should be deported and are responsible for any enforcement action. Sheriff's deputies do not hold individuals past their scheduled release dates for federal agents, but do share basic details of the individual's release.

Many jurisdictions throughout the country did comply with such holds until 2014, when the Obama administration changed its deportation priorities. The system that facilitated that cooperation, however, remains. Fingerprints taken by local agencies are typically run through an FBI database that is shared with immigration enforcement agencies.

Trump said on Sunday's “60 Minutes” he would quickly deport or incarcerate individuals who are living in the country illegally and have committed crimes — a group he estimated to be in the millions.

The Migration Policy Institute, a nonpartisan think-tank funded by foundations and several nations including the United States, estimated the population size at 820,000, with 300,000 having committed felonies.

In her statement to KPBS, Zimmerman stressed the need to maintain trust with San Diego’s large immigrant population.

“The San Diego Police Department recognizes and values the diversity of the community it serves. We work closely with Federal, State, and local agencies to ensure San Diego remains one of the safest big cities in the United States.

The San Diego Police Department focuses primarily on crime prevention and enforcing local laws. Once a suspect is arrested and booked into the San Diego County Jail, the primary responsibility for the enforcement of Federal immigration laws rests with the United States Customs and Border Protection Services.

The San Diego Police Department does not check the immigration status of victims and witnesses of crimes to encourage all people to come forward, confident in the knowledge their report will be investigated thoroughly and professionally.”

A spokeswoman for the sheriff’s department said it operates in compliance with state law.

Federal immigration agencies and officials have primary jurisdiction and responsibility for the enforcement of immigration laws. Under California law, the primary function of a Sheriff's Deputy is to enforce the laws of the State of California. In general, California state law leaves the direct enforcement of immigration laws almost entirely with federal agencies and officials. It is the Department's policy regarding the enforcement of immigration law that deputies shall not utilize immigration officials for the sole purpose of determining the person's immigration status.

The SDSO maintains strong relationships with our federal law enforcement partners. All individuals booked into a San Diego County Jail have their fingerprints checked in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's system to determine their immigration status. ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) agents are stationed in our booking facilities and they are responsible for determining an individual's immigration status and appropriate enforcement action. When ICE officials wish to take custody of an inmate in the San Diego County jails, they are provided the date, time and place of that person's release. Consistent with California law, the Sheriff's Department does not detain inmates past their scheduled release date without lawful authority.

The Sheriff's Department does not anticipate any changes to its policies related to the enforcement of immigration at this time.

Earlier this week, Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck said his officers will not help with deportation efforts. “That is not our job, nor will I make it our job,” he said.

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