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Newsmaker Of The Year:

Impact of ICE

Since an agent was placed in the Costa Mesa jail last year, the plan and its effects are a constant presence in the news.

December 30, 2007|By Brianna Bailey

Costa Mesa has been at the forefront of the national debate on immigration ever since Mayor Allan Mansoor unveiled a plan to have police enforce immigration laws in 2005.

It’s been a year since a federal immigration official set up shop at the Costa Mesa jail. The city was the first in Southern California to post an Immigration and Customs Enforcement officer full-time at its jail.

Proponents of the enforcement program say Costa Mesa’s partnership with federal law enforcement has been fruitful in its first year — 360 illegal immigrants nabbed by local police have been deported in its first year. But some say many offenders would have been flagged for immigration checks anyway and the presence of a full-time immigration officer at the jail has made Costa Mesa’s large Latino community fearful of law enforcement.

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“I think it’s been overblown in its success,” said Jean Forthbath, a community activist who founded the Costa Mesa charity Share Our Selves, which provides social services and medical care to the poor, including many immigrants. “I feel it has created a great deal of fear and anxiety in the Latino community.”

Out of the police department’s 5,369 arrests between December 2006 and through November, 2,045 were flagged for an interview with Costa Mesa’s ICE agent.

Of the 520 immigrants eligible for deportation in that year, 360 have already been deported and 114 are still in legal removal proceedings, or in the midst of federal prosecution.

Another 46 immigrants are in the custody of other law enforcement agencies, such as Orange County Jail or prison. Twelve of the 520 illegal immigrants officials found in Costa Mesa had already been deported once or more.

Many of the immigrants Costa Mesa discovered who could offer no proof of their legal status were hauled in for minor offenses, such as riding a bicycle on the wrong side of the street. Another undocumented immigrant was found sleeping in a car.

Many flagged for immigration checks were found in Westside Costa Mesa, a predominantly Latino part of town.

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