Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn says it’s “not the county sheriff’s job to be involved in immigration issues.”
Hahn’s comment, made during a talk to the Los Angeles Current Affairs Forum, is a contrast to what Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell has said about his department’s treatment of undocumented immigrants, especially since President Donald Trump has begun cracking down on them. “We will not be involved in immigration issues,” Hahn said.
McDonnell is a central figure in the undocumented immigrant controversy. He is in charge of the county’s huge jail system. Sheriff’s deputies send the names and fingerprints of those booked into jail to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which identifies those it would like to pick up. These are usually undocumented workers with a record of arrests for offenses ranging rom major to minor. At ICE’s request, the sheriff hands over undocumented inmates who have been arrested for what the federal government considers major crimes or who have prior convictions.
McDonnell told the Los Angeles Times that if immigration officers can’t pick up people in jails, the ICE officers will scour the streets for them, disrupting immigrant communities. He and other sheriffs around the state oppose a bill by State Sen. President Kevin deLeon restricting sheriffs’ ability to cooperate with ICE. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck have said they don’t want LAPD officers acting as immigration cops.
While McDonnell is nominally supervised by the Board of Supervisors, the supes generally keep hands off his department unless a scandal explodes. So it’s not known whether Hahn’s remarks will impact his policies.
The question, from Current Affairs Forum director Emma Schafer, first brought a chuckle from Hahn, who said she had been assured it would be a friendly, intimate gathering and now she found herself hit with controversy with a table full of reporters in front of her. But she answered the question in depth and with good-natured openness. She treated other questions the same way, showing her years of experience as a Los Angeles city council member and congresswoman—and as the daughter of the famed late Supervisor Kenneth Hahn.
Her position reflects the strongly liberal tilt of the five-member board with four Democrats and a moderate Republican, Kathryn Barger.
Like her father, Hahn favors expansion of the board to nine members. Having one supervisor represent 2 million people, as she does, is too much, Hahn said.