LOS ANGELES, CA, UNITED STATES – 02/27/2019: Sheriff Alex Villanueva spoke to the media during a press conference in Los Angeles. (Photo by Ronen Tivony / SOPA Images / LightRocket via Getty Images) (Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES – – A senior Department of Homeland Security official said Sheriff Alex Villanueva's new policy prohibiting the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department from undocumented immigrants who commit crimes on ICE, regardless of the severity of the crime to surrender will lead to the death of innocent people.
Ken Cuccinelli, who served as assistant secretary, wrote a letter to Villanueva expressing his concern about the policy, which was announced on August 18. He asked Villanueva to reconsider his position, saying Villanueva's new policy is stricter than California's statewide policy, which largely prevents cooperation with federal immigration authorities. According to Cuccinelli, national policy "provides an exception for certain extremely serious crimes," which Villanueva does not.
"It's a no-brainer to say that 180 murderers, 750 rapists and 1,400 gun offenders will be put back on the streets if they otherwise could have been removed from the country, which would lead to other murders, rape and gun crimes in this community," Cuccinelli told The Washington Times. "People in Los Angeles are going to die and be raped because of this sheriff's actions, and those are victims who never have to be victims."
Cuccinelli noted in his letter that Villanueva has publicly criticized the release of criminals due to COVID-19 "because they pose a threat to public safety and such releases can lead to" additional, avoidable victims "."
"Still, you are allowing criminals in your custody who pose the same dangers to walk out of the doorstep of your prisons because of their immigration status – or lack of it. This is pure hypocrisy that puts real life at risk." the letter reads.
In 2019, ICE registered more than 11,500 undocumented immigrants in the Los Angeles County Sheriff's custody, Cuccinelli said. They were responsible for 180 murder charges, 750 sex crimes, 1,400 gun crimes, 680 robberies and more than 5,100 assaults.
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Villanueva announced earlier this month that Los Angeles County will no longer bring into the custody of ICE anyone based solely on a civilian immigrant inmate.
"In doing so, we have created a clear line between federal immigration enforcement and local law enforcement in the most populous county in the country," he wrote in a statement. "I will not allow a whole section of the population to be afraid to report crimes to law enforcement and be forced into the shadows again."
"We will encourage ICE to use the constitutionally sound arrest warrant system used by all other law enforcement agencies in the country to effect legal transfers from Los Angeles County to federal custody," said Villanueva.
FOX 11 has asked Villanueva for his reply to Cuccinelli's letter and is waiting for an answer.