- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 23, 2015

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Federal immigration agents will return to Los Angeles County jails on a limited basis to identify deportable inmates under a policy announced Tuesday by Sheriff Jim McDonnell.

The move came just months after supervisors voted to end a controversial program that allowed Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents to work inside the jails to assess the immigration status of inmates.

In a memo to the Board of Supervisors, McDonnell said he will now allow ICE to have access only to inmates who have committed serious crimes and who qualify under the California Trust Act. The 2013 law limits collaboration between local law enforcement officials and federal immigration authorities.

Under the new rules, jail officials will also notify ICE up to seven days before those inmates are set to be released so immigration agents can begin deportation proceedings. This protection came at the request of immigration advocates, the sheriff wrote.

Inmates whose release date is flagged for ICE by the Sheriff’s Department will be notified and advised of their right to consult legal counsel.

Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich said in a brief statement that he and his fellow board members support the new policy.

McDonnell wrote that the new procedures balance public safety needs and the concerns of immigrant communities as well as “the equally complex and passionate positions of groups on both sides of the immigration debate.”

Immigrant advocates said the policy could lead to racial profiling and increase distrust in law enforcement among immigrant communities.

“It is a policy that entangles local criminal law enforcement with the enforcement of outdated, unjust civil immigration laws,” said Pablo Alvarado, director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network.

McDonnell noted that the new policy was drafted after three community meetings attended by nearly 400 people and many private meetings with advocates, immigration officials and other area law enforcement agencies.

The relationship between local law enforcement agencies and federal immigration officials has been under scrutiny since the July shooting death of a woman on a San Francisco pier.

Prosecutors say a man in the country illegally committed the killing after being released from local custody.

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