LAPD to stop emailing ICE after complaint

Original Article:

Los Alamos Police Chief Dino Sgambellone said Tuesday his department will reevaluate whether the department will include Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents on a weekly email list that includes jail reports. 

<div class="source">Courtesy</div><div class="image-desc">Jennifer Burrill</div><div class="buy-pic"><a href="/photo_select/97756">Buy this photo</a></div>
Courtesy Jennifer Burrill

The list is sent to law enforcement and court officials every Monday.

The chain email became an issue Monday when criminal defense attorney Jennifer Burrill publicly called out the Los Alamos Police Department for routinely sending its booking report to Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents. 

Burrill, a Santa Fe public defender in the First judicial District, who is also the vice president of the New Mexico Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, said the department’s collaboration with ICE interfered with the state’s court system. 

“Honestly, my biggest issue with this is that ICE doesn’t notify the attorneys, whether they be prosecutors or defense attorneys or the courts when they sweep in and pick someone up, nor does the jail,” Burrill said. “The problem is that when the federal government determines through the immigration agencies that an individual’s lack of immigration status is more important than any crime they committed in the state of New Mexico, be it murder, rape, domestic violence or child abuse or whatever it is, they’re undermining the criminal justice system.” 

Sgambellone said the department would stop sending the chain email for now.

“We’re going to forgo that. We’re still evaluating what we’re doing and why… what’s necessary and what may not be,” Sgambellone said, adding that they would approach each contact on a case-by-case basis. “We’ll reach out to all those folks on that list and kind of reevaluate if necessary, if anyone is getting anything out of it.”

The list was intended to keep necessary people in the loop about police department activity, according to Sgambellone.

“It was to notify different stakeholders about individuals who were incarcerated… it was designed to facilitate efforts within the criminal justice system that included programming efforts,” Sgambellone said.

County Manager Harry Burgess said the county was not responding to pressure from those critical of the practice. He noted that the email list that went out every Monday predated those who are now in charge of the list, and that he himself was unaware of the list until the public outcry in the media. Burgess said that after a meeting with Sgambellone and his staff that it would be more efficient to field inquiries from ICE on a case-by-case basis. 

“In reality, we don’t expect them to be looking at our email, because, judging by our past experience with them, they have not been necessarily interested.” Burgess said.

“…Looking at it from that perspective, it just made sense to discontinue this. Yes, there is a public relations concern in this, but no it wasn’t because we felt like it was illegal, it was just more about the questions that it raised,” Burgess said. “…It was a historic thing, and a little beyond its time, and so we will just deal with those inquiries as they come in.” 

Sgambellone said that they would continue to work with ICE on warrant issues, just like they do with any other law enforcement agency. 

“My opinion of the politicization of the issue is irrelevant,” Sgambellone said. “I’ve been sworn to uphold the law, whatever the law is. If ICE calls and they say we have a warrant for someone in our facility, I’m not going to tell them no. We are ordered by the court. We are commanded to execute that arrest warrant.”

Sgambellone also said that the few undocumented people the Los Alamos County Detention Center receives a year are free to go if they are not wanted by any other law enforcement agency, including ICE. If ICE doesn’t have a warrant for them, they are free to leave after they’ve completed their sentence. 

LAPD Spokesman Commander Preston Ballew said the agents were on the list because they requested to be on the list.

“We send these reports to them because they requested us to do so,” Ballew said. When asked about if it was part of police department policy to cooperate with ICE,

Ballew stated, “We cooperate with all law enforcement entities on a case-by-case basis.”

When asked for a response to those who are criticizing the department for sending the booking reports to ICE agents, Ballew said again it was part of the department’s job to cooperate with other law enforcement agencies.

“We took an oath to uphold the law of the state of New Mexico and those of the Constitution. We don’t make the laws, we just enforce them,” Ballew said.

Burrill responded that the law does not require the booking reports be sent through the emails.

“The Constitution does not require it, nor is there a law that mandates the county jails in New Mexico to routinely provide a complete list of all inmates, including their birth dates and social security numbers, to federal ICE agents,” Burrill said.

“This practice of jail staff emailing ICE agents detailed information of all inmates is a proactive measure to assist ICE in identifying persons who have questionable legal status. Assisting ICE agents in removing people from New Mexico’s criminal justice system actually undermines the rule of law in Los Alamos County. 

“Once in ICE custody inmates are denied their constitutional right to trial on the criminal charges they were arrested for and this practice fails to afford victims of crime justice in Los Alamos County by not having persons who are guilty of crimes convicted and held accountable,” Burrill said.