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LAPD Chief Charlie Beck says he doesn't expect an Arizona-style immigration law in L.A.

January 28, 2011 |  9:29 am

Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck thrust himself into the debate over policing and immigration this week by reemphasizing that his department does not stop people based on their immigration status.

Click to read the proposed California immigration law and analysis Beck participated in Spanish-language public service announcements with consuls general from Mexico and five Central American countries to drive home the message.

DOCUMENTS: Read law proposed for California

Immigrants need not fear interaction with his officers because officers are forbidden under court-mandated Special Order 40 from stopping people solely on the basis of their immigration status, he said.

The order, part of the LAPD manual created in 1979 by then-Chief Daryl Gates, has long been criticized by conservatives as limiting the department's ability to enforce federal laws. The order was designed to ensure immigrant communities will cooperate with police in crime investigations.

The issue resurfaced recently when Arizona adopted a law requiring officers to enforce federal immigration laws. Flanked by the consuls general, Beck said Thursday he does not expect an Arizona-style law to be enacted in Los Angeles.

“It was the policy I had as a police officer coming up and it will be the policy as long as my children are police officers," said Beck, whose son and daughter serve on the LAPD.

Beck said the public service announcements were made in response to growing rhetoric over the issue.

“That’s the elephant in the room," Beck said. "There is a national debate about immigration and the local law enforcement’s role in immigration enforcement.”

Beck said once people are arrested, they can be questioned about their immigration status and referred to federal authorities to determine if they are in the country illegally.

The Los Angeles County jail system works with federal authorities to identify potential illegal immigrants who could face deportation. But the program focuses on violent criminals, Beck said.

Juan Carlos Mendoza, Mexico’s acting consul general, said Thursday his office supports the LAPD's work with immigrant communities and has not received reports of officers harassing Mexican citizens over immigration status.

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-- Richard Winton

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