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Community Groups Sue L.A. County Sheriff Baca

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Lawsuit Seeks to Uncover Truth Behind Sheriff’s Immigration Operations in Los Angeles County

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

June 30, 2011

CONTACT: 

Adela de la Torre, NILC, (213) 674-2832; delatorre@Nilc.org  
Jessica Karp, NDLON: 917-855-7682; jkarp@ndlon.org  
Carl Bergquist, CHIRLA: 310-279-6025; cbergquist@chirla.org

LOS ANGELES, Calif. — After years of requesting public documents through the California Public Records Act, the National Immigration Law Center (NILC), the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON), and the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA) today announced that they were taking legal action to obtain information about the Los Angeles County’s ties to federal immigration enforcement efforts. 

Community members served Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca with a summons and petition during a demonstration outside of his office protesting the criminalization of immigrants in Los Angeles. The petition names Baca as the defendant in a lawsuit, which charges that the sheriff violated the California Public Records Act by refusing to disclose information about his dealings with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

The demonstration follows a storm of controversy triggered by Sheriff Baca’s recent remarks about undocumented immigrants. Demonstrators decried the sheriff’s collaboration with ICE, including his participation in the controversial Secure Communities (S-Comm) program. Baca has publicly championed S-Comm, despite serious criticisms of the program from civil rights groups across the country, calls from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus for a moratorium pending investigation of racial profiling concerns, and demands by the states of New York, Illinois, and Massachusetts to withdraw from it.

“Los Angelenos expect their sheriff to be a fair and just leader and to apply the law in accordance with the context under which an incident has occurred. Sheriff Baca’s enthusiastic support of S-Comm is disconcerting and dangerous and sets him apart not as an ally of the community but as one who blindly follows instead of leading,” said Angelica Salas, CHIRLA executive director.

 NDLON’s staff attorney Jessica Karp said, “ICE has used secrecy and deception to create monsters out of sheriff departments throughout the country. This is L.A., not Phoenix.  We demand transparency from our sheriff, and we have zero tolerance for civil rights violations.”

“Our democracy is dependent upon an open and transparent government,” said Melissa Keaney, an attorney with the National Immigration Law Center. “Unfortunately, both federal and local officials involved in controversial and largely discredited immigration enforcement programs like S-Comm and 287(g) seem to have forgotten this central component of good governance. Angelenos, as well as community members across the country, deserve to know about government activities, including those of local law enforcement.”

Sanjukta Paul, an attorney representing the plaintiffs, said, “Looking at the plain text of the California Public Records Act requiring that public records be just that—public—and looking at the courts’ and the Constitution’s strongly worded reiterations of that fundamental requirement, I am truly surprised by the recalcitrance of the Sheriff’s Department, a sophisticated public entity, in responding to legitimate requests for information from these organizations regarding matters that are plainly of public concern.”

The law office of Sanjukta Paul represents the lawsuit’s plaintiffs.

A copy of the petition is available at www.change.org/petitions/tell-los-angeles-county-sheriff-baca-the-constitution-protects-us-all.

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