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Report faults Orange County for its handling of immigrant juveniles

December 05, 2013|By Kate Linthicum

Orange County probation officials say they will launch a review of their juvenile detention policies after the release this week of a report that faults the county for referring hundreds of immigrant youths to federal immigration authorities.

The report, published by the UC Irvine School of Law Immigrant Rights Clinic, took aim at an Orange County Probation Department policy that requires intake officers at juvenile detention centers to determine the immigration status of youths in their custody.

Until last year, intake officers were required to notify U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcementif they believed a juvenile was in the country without permission. In hundreds of cases, probation agents held juveniles who had finished serving their time in county detention and transferred them into ICE custody, the report says.

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The report claims those practices violate confidentiality laws as well as “undermine the rehabilitative goals of the juvenile justice system." It cites data obtained by a separate group that shows that between 2009 and 2012, Orange County referred 546 juveniles to ICE, more than any other county in the state.

Ed Harrison, a spokesman for the Orange County Probation Department, said the agency's lawyers will review its juvenile detention policies along with the report's claims that those policies are unlawful.

“We'll be talking to our attorneys to get their opinions on the conclusions drawn in this report,” he said.

He pointed to recent changes that have reduced the number of juveniles referred to ICE. 

In 2012, Orange County adopted a narrower policy that instructs intake officers to refer juveniles to ICE only when the youth “presents a foreseeable and/or articulated danger to public safety” or when reporting the youth’s immigration status “serves the best interest of the minor.”

But while the changes have reduced the number of referrals, "the data shows that they continue to refer at a pretty steady rate," said Annie Lai, co-director of the Immigrant Rights Clinic and an editor of the report.

While hundreds of youths are transferred to federal immigration authorities in Southern California each year, only a small number end up being deported, ICE officials say.

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