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Police in Los Angeles Face Questions about How They Deal with Undocumented Immigrants
by Greg Siskind and Amy Ballentine

A panel formed by the Los Angeles Police Department has recommended that the Department revise its operating procedures to ensure that officers are not stopping people solely to inquire about their immigration status. In 1979, the City of Los Angeles passed a resolution that prohibits such inquires, but in 20 years it has never been fully incorporated into police operating standards.

The panel did not say that police routinely violate the resolution, but said that because there are no guidelines, potential for violations exist. The panel was formed in the wake of the scandal that rocked the LAPD’s Rampart Division, which, among other things, was accused of singling people out on the basis of their immigration status. The panel also recommended that the LAPD should develop guidelines for when and under what circumstances it should contact the INS.

Even as the LAPD is being told to watch how it treats undocumented immigrants, police departments in nearby Orange County are being criticized by the Border Patrol for being too active in arresting undocumented immigrants. According to Border Patrol records, in the past two years, Orange County police have detained more than 4,000 people on suspicion that they were undocumented, and have taken many of them straight to an INS checkpoint for deportation. Such practices are frowned upon by the federal government and by advocate, who say that the police are engaged in racial profiling.

The Border Patrol believes that local law enforcement officials, who lack training in complex immigration law, should not be taking such actions. It also notes that INS officials are stationed at many jails in the area, meaning that there is no need for the police to be taking suspects to the Border Patrol.

Eight of the 22 police forces in Orange County said that they engaged in the practice, but deny that any racial profiling is involved. They say that there are many reasons for why they do it, including getting people off the streets and avoiding the costs associated with convicting a person of a minor offense only to then turn them over the to Border Patrol.

Along with concerns about racial profiling, there is also the fact that in some cases the police have taken legal US residents to the Border Patrol for deportation. Also, such actions by the police will inevitably make people, whether undocumented or not, hesitant to seek out the assistance of the police when they are victimized by crime.

About The Author

Gregory Siskind has experience handling all aspects of immigration and nationality law and has represented numerous clients throughout the world. Mr. Siskind provides consultations to corporations and individuals on immigration law issues and handles cases before the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the Department of State, the Department of Labor and other government agencies. Gregory Siskind is also committed to community service. He regularly provides free legal services to indigent immigration clients and speaks at community forums to offer information on immigration issues. After graduating magna cum laude from Vanderbilt University, Gregory Siskind went on to receive his law degree from the University of Chicago. For the past several years, he has been an active member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association and he currently serves as a member of the organization's Technology Committee. He is the current committee chair for the Nashville Bar Association's International Section. Greg is a member of the American Bar Association where he serves on the LPM Publishing Board as Marketing Vice Chairman and on the Council of the Law Practice Management Section. He is also a member of the Tennessee Bar Association, the Nashville Bar Association and the Memphis Bar Association. He serves on the board of the British American Business Association of Tennessee. And he serves on the Board of Directors of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society and on the executive boards of the Jewish Family Service agencies in Nashville and Memphis, Tennessee. He recently was named one of the Top 40 executives under age 40 in his hometown of Memphis, Tennessee.

Greg regularly writes on the subject of immigration law. He has written several hundred articles on the subject and is also the author of the new book The J Visa Guidebook, published by Matthew Bender and Company, one of the nation's leading legal publishers. He is working on another book for Matthew Bender on entertainment and sports immigration.

Greg is also, in many ways, a pioneer in the use of the Internet in the legal profession. He was one of the first lawyers in the country (and the very first immigration lawyer) to set up a web site for his practice. And he was the first attorney in the world to distribute a firm newsletter via e-mail listserv. Mr. Siskind is the author of the American Bar Association's best selling book, The Lawyer's Guide to Marketing on the Internet. He has been interviewed and profiled in a number of leading publications and media including USA Today, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Lawyers Weekly, the ABA Journal, the National Law Journal, American Lawyer, Law Practice Management Magazine, National Public Radio's All Things Considered and the Washington Post. As one of the leading experts in the country on the use of the Internet in a legal practice, Greg speaks regularly at forums across the United States, Canada and Europe.

In his personal life, Greg is the husband of Audrey Siskind and the proud father of Eden Shoshana and Lily Jordana. He also enjoys collecting rare newspapers and running in marathons and triathlons. He can be reached by email at

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