Immigration detainers placed on 40

Costa Mesa officials expect percentage of arrestees tapped for immigration violations to remain steady in summer.

April 03, 2007|By Alicia Robinson

Federal immigration officials found 40 people they suspect of breaking immigration laws in March in the Costa Mesa jail, according to Costa Mesa police statistics for the month.

Those 40 people had immigration detainers placed on them by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which has had an agent working at the jail since December. The immigration detainers represent about 9.5% of the 420 people Costa Mesa police arrested or detained in March.

That's "fairly consistent" with previous months, Costa Mesa Police Chief Christopher Shawkey said Monday, but "long term I'm not sure what the numbers will be. Coming into summer, that usually changes the dynamics."


Police usually make more overall arrests during summer than at other times of the year, Shawkey said. He expected the percentage of arrestees tapped for immigration violations to remain about the same but said police are still a few months away from drawing any conclusions on the cooperative program with federal officials.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman Lori Haley said Monday the agency does not yet have the March statistics and so could not comment.

Costa Mesa's numbers show 17 of the 40 people suspected of immigration violations also are suspected of misdemeanors including driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, disorderly conduct and indecent exposure.

Of the remainder, 12 people are suspected of felony offenses such as grand theft and possession of a controlled substance. Six people were wanted under existing misdemeanor warrants and five had outstanding felony warrants.

When the city began discussing immigration enforcement in December 2005, some residents worried people in the city's Latino community would stop cooperating with the police because they would fear being questioned about their immigration status. Shawkey said he hasn't heard anything that indicates there's less cooperation with police today.

"I think they're still willing to talk to us because we have limited it to those who are suspects and are arrested," he said. "I think that's the most important part of all this — we're not asking victims, we're not asking witnesses about their immigration status."


The number of people held for immigration violations at the Costa Mesa jail rose in March, the fourth month since a federal immigration agent was installed there. Here are the Costa mesa Police Department's statistics on the number of people with immigration detainers each month, and the crimes for which police originally stopped them.

Immigration holds by month

  • December: 46

  • January: 58

  • February: 29

  • March: 40

    Other charges against people suspected of immigration violations

  • Misdemeanor: 88

  • Felony: 59

  • Previous warrant: 25

  • Infraction: 1

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