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Sheriff’s Attempt to Dismiss FOIA Lawsuit Rebuffed

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Court Overrules Sheriff's Motion to Prevent  Rights Advocates from Seeking Information About Los Angeles County Sheriff's Collaboration with Immigration and Customs Enforcement

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 

November 29, 2011

CONTACT: 

Adela de la Torre, National Immigration Law Center (NILC) (213) 674-2832; delatorre@nilc.org
Carl Berquist, CHIRLA, (310) 279-6025
B. Loewe, NDLON, (773) 791-4668

LOS ANGELES, Calif. – Today, the Los Angeles Superior Court rejected Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca’s attempt to block rights advocates’ request for information under the California Public Records Act. The Sheriff had sought to keep confidential, information about the Sheriff’s participation in federal deportation programs.  The lawsuit was brought by the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA), the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON), and the National Immigration Law Center (NILC).  Plaintiffs are represented by the Law Office of Sanjukta M. Paul.

Jessica Karp of NDLON said, “Today’s decision is a victory for the people of Los Angeles.  We have the right to know how much of our tax dollars the Sheriff is spending to facilitate deportations that separate families and we will continue to pursue that right in this case.”

As Los Angeles County faces the likelihood of running out of jail space within the next month, the judge’s decision means that the Sheriff may soon be forced to reveal the number of inmates who are being held in county jail for purely civil immigration violations.  The Sheriff may also be forced to admit the cost of the County’s participation in the federal Secure Communities deportation program and the number of people who have been deported through the County jails.

Carl Bergquist of CHIRLA added, “As we have seen in similar cases, both locally and nationally, these attempts to withhold information from the public may be undemocratic but ultimately they prove to be futile. We have a right to know how and why our elected Sheriff – in a time of declining crime - is collaborating with the federal government to deport community members who in no way, shape, or form are threats to public safety.”

After years of requesting public documents through the California Public Records Act, NILC, NDLON, and CHIRLA in June announced that they were taking legal action to obtain information about the Los Angeles County’s ties to federal immigration enforcement efforts. The lawsuit, which names Baca as a defendant, charges that the sheriff violated the California Public Records Act by refusing to disclose information about his dealings with ICE.

“Whether foreign or native born, Angelenos deserve to know how the Sheriff Baca – an elected official – has chosen to use his precious resources,” said Melissa Keaney, an attorney with the National Immigration Law Center. “Information about the Sheriff’s law enforcement priorities should be made public to all those living within this county. We hope Sheriff Baca and his attorneys will promptly comply with the law and shed light on his department’s secretive practices with ICE.”

Plaintiffs’ counsel, Sanjukta M. Paul, said, “I am very pleased by the Court’s order today, which overruled the County’s motion on each and every issue the County raised.”

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