April 17, 2007 By Wallin & Klarich

When driving down the streets of Los Angeles, most people are not concerned about dodging La Migra, otherwise known as Federal Immigration Officials. Illegal immigrants only have to worry about that stuff around the border of the United States and Mexico, right? Well, if certain anti-illegal immigrant activists have there way, illegal immigrants in Los Angeles will have to worry about Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) officers acting as La Migra.

Currently, LAPD officers are prohibited from inquiring into the immigration status of suspects, under the LAPD’s Special Order 40. Officers have traditionally used a “don’t ask, don’t tell” method when it comes to immigration status, in part so that members of Los Angeles’s immigrant communities will freely cooperate with officers without fear of being deported.

However, anti-illegal immigrant activists have filed suit challenging Special Order 40 and demanding that LAPD officers inform immigration officials when illegal immigrants are arrested on drug charges. These activities point to a section in the Health and safety Code which states that “the arresting agency shall notify the appropriate agency of the United States having charge of deportation” of the names of individuals arrested on suspicion of drug trafficking or possession.

In contrast, opponents of those who want to overturn Special Order 40 argue that having LAPD officers question suspected drug offenders about there immigration status is wrong for a number of reasons. First, they argue that it is unconstitutional as it violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution of the United States of America.

The argument is that the LAPD would just be unfairly targeting drug offenders, while individuals who commit any other crime would not be questioned about their immigration status.

Opponents also argue that it could lead to racial profiling. That overturning Special Order 40 will give free reign to LAPD Officers to unfairly target suspected drug offenders who appear to be illegal immigrants based on their race, skin color, etc. Moreover, opponents argue that overturning Special Order 40 will discourage individuals of immigrant communities from trusting or cooperating with LAPD officers.

Obviously, those in favor of overturning Special Order 40 when LAPD officers are dealing with suspected drug offenders are not just trying to target drug offenders. They are just using this loop hole as a first step, in an attempt to eventually require all LAPD officers to pull double duty and act as both police officers and La Migra, no matter what the alleged crime involves. This issue is certainly something to be aware of as it could potentially affect many of our friends, family members, etc. It will be very interesting to watch as the issue is debated in and outside of court in the weeks to come!

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