This opinion piece appeared in the Los Angeles Times on March 25, 2000

Repeal 17-year old "Special order 40"

In recent days, it was revealed that the Rampart CRASH unit had been working with the INS to deport illegal aliens. "Immigration rights" activists immediately capitalized on this, saying that what the cops did was illegal. But the deportations were not by themselves illegal. What was illegal was that out-of-control and abusive CRASH officers violated LAPD's "Special Order 40" policy.

"Special Order 40" originated 17 years ago by the L.A. City Council, mandates that police not question anyone they arrest about their immigration status unless done so after criminal charges have been made. This mandate not only doesn't make sense, it is a virtual invitation for illegal alien criminals to come to Los Angeles. While a police officer may do a complete "make" on suspects stopped for minor traffic infractions, incredibly, they are not allowed by LAPD policy to inquire on the legal residency status of suspected felons.

In June, 1997, an L.A. Times series about the notorious 18th Street Gang said that according to a confidential state Department of Justice report, that 50% to 60% of that gang's members in Southern California are illegal aliens, estimated to be as high as 20,000. Most of these gang members roam the streets without fear of the police because law abiding neighborhood residents are intimidated by gangs into not getting involved in police matters.

In the 1930's, the infamous gangster, Al Capone, could never be convicted of murder because intimidated witnesses fearing for their lives, would not come forward. After finding they could not pin anything on Capone, Chicago Police working with the FBI, finally put him in jail on the unlikely charge of income tax evasion -- not the worst thing to be convicted of, but better than nothing. For the same reason, if Special Order 40 were repealed, the LAPD in conjunction with the INS would have a powerful tool to legitimately arrest and deport illegal alien criminal gang members.

Many point to a federal court order which invalidated Proposition 187 on the grounds that local police could not lawfully enforce immigration law. But on October 4, 1999, the U.S. Supreme Court  refused to hear an appeal of a landmark decision by the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, confirming that state and local law enforcement officials are free to arrest criminals solely on the basis of illegally being in the U.S. This ruling finally put to rest any question that local governments have about their authority to join the federal government in the fight against illegal alien criminals.

LAPD's argument that innocent undocumented immigrants would not report crimes for fear of being deported is utter nonsense. The law abiding undocumented immigrants in my neighborhood to whom I have spoken, all favor more power by police to rid us of criminal gang members. In the area of Van Nuys where I live, our "immigrant friendly" community policing efforts have obviated any fears that the undocumented may have of deportation for reporting crime. Immigrants have told me that they do not fear the Los Angeles police. What they do fear, is gang retaliation for getting involved as witnesses.

"Special Order 40" should be repealed and replaced with a common-sense policy that does not allow police to randomly question people about their immigration status, but would allow police officers to report known illegal alien criminals who might otherwise "walk," to the INS for deportation.