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Pasadena ends agreement with immigration authorities

The Armenian Community Coalition holds the 97th Armenian Genocide Commemoration on the steps of Pasadena City Hall to coincide with the beginning of the Armenian Genocide on April 24, 1915.
Michael Juliano/KPCC
Pasadena City Hall

The city of Pasadena is backing out of a longstanding cooperation agreement with the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, or ICE. It appears to be the first city in Southern California to do so amid concerns President Trump will follow through with his promise to dramatically increase deportations.

ICE has such agreements with about 50 law enforcement agencies in the greater L.A. area, according department spokeswoman Virginia Kice. They establish protocols for reimbursing any overtime local police officers spend assisting federal agents to capture immigrants who are living in the U.S. illegally and are accused of serious crimes, she said.

“Essentially these agreements are pretty routine,” Kice said.

But immigrant rights activists said the language in the agreement could be used to force local police to help ICE round up immigrants for deportation.

Until now, the agency and local police have engaged in cooperative efforts focused on criminals.

"The problem is this is no longer the Obama Administration, this is the Trump Administration,” said Pasadena attorney Dale Gronemeier. He pointed to section five “A” of the document.

“To the maximum extent possible, the Pasadena Police Department shall assign dedicated officers to any investigation or joint operation,” the agreement states.

Kice dimissed concerns that the federal government would use this to mandate local police help round up immigrants.

“It’s not in any way shape or form a means to essentially dictate the manner or way we interact with those police departments,” she said.

It’s unclear to what extent the Pasadena Police Department will continue to work with ICE during operations focused on serious criminals. A call to the department was not returned.

Immigrant rights activists nonetheless hailed Pasadena’s decision.

“Pasadena is taking a really strong and important stand,” said Emi MacLean, an attorney with the National Day Laborer Organizing Network. Immigrants who are living in the country illegally but have committed no crime often are picked up during ICE operations focused on finding criminals.

“They are a rogue agency,” she said.

In the past, ICE officials have said they try to limit such detentions but also pointed out their mission is to remove people who are in the country illegally.