Los Angeles Criminal Law Blog

Jamiel's Law: A Developing Situation

Posted on: December 6, 2008 at 4:28 p.m.

Jamiel's Law is a voter initiative would allow Los Angeles police to arrest illegal immigrant gang members solely because they're illegal. The law is named after 17-year-old Los Angeles High School football player Jamiel Shaw II, who was gunned down in March allegedly by a reputed gang member who was in the country illegally. The measure would modify the Los Angeles Police Department's Special Order 40, which prohibits officers from initiating contact with individuals for the sole purpose of determining whether they are illegal immigrants.

Supporters of the proposed Los Angeles voter initiative said they collected enough petition signatures before Friday's deadline to qualify the measure for the May ballot. The signatures still need to be verified by the Los Angeles city clerk's office, a process that could take up to three weeks. Proponents, who needed to gather 73,963 signatures from valid registered voters in the city, said they had submitted more than 76,000.

Immigrant rights attorneys, advocates and LAPD Chief William J. Bratton strongly oppose Jamiel's Law, saying it is unnecessary and opens a backdoor to "racial profiling" by law enforcement. Bratton, when testifying before the City Council in April, said officers already have the authority to tell immigration authorities when known gang members have committed crimes.

The relationship between immigration and gang activity is one the Los Angeles Police Department and Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys have been exploring for decades. Los Angeles gang defense and Los Angeles immigration defense attorneys are experienced in defending people who find themselves accused of crimes or who are wrestling with immigration issues.

Tagged as: immigration consequences


Mikhail Silin CS 139 on June 6, 2009 at 9:34 p.m. wrote:

I think this an interesting article to check out about the issue. http://www.city-journal.org/html/14_1_the_illegal_alien.html I also read this book about illegal immigration a couple of years ago and found it really interesting, might change your mind about the whole 'taking our jobs' standpoint and the wish to deport illegals from Los Angeles (if you have such opinions). Surprisingly, it's free online! It's called 'They Take our Jobs! and 20 other myths about illegal immigration' http://books.google.com/books?id=8sqiIlQt16UC&pg=PA194&lpg=PA194&dq=they+took+our+jobs+myth&source=bl&ots=tqAo8to5pT&sig=S3lDOslcUBo0mE7YKeJwpkR0hAk&hl=en&ei=A1ErSur1JZC6tAOe3pHoCg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=4#PPP1,M1

Mikhail Silin CS 139 on June 6, 2009 at 9:31 p.m. wrote:

At first upon reading this post I would agree with the other two posters - it seems that Jamiel's law, asking to repeal Special Order 40, which prohibits police officers from 'initiat(ing) police action with the objective of discovering the alien status of a person,' is not good policy. At first it sounds like this would allow police officers to 100% profile people on the street, and ask people based on looks if they are an illegal immigrant and then try to deport them. However a legal and a social issue have caused me to side with supporting this law. The social issue is that this order would prohibit a police officer from confronting gang members on the street even if they know who they are. I read online about various cases where known, violent gang members who commited various crimes would be seen by police officers who could do nothing. These gang members could be arrested or deported based on their status but the police could not confont them. In the case of Jamiel, this man had just confronted a number of crimes and was released back into Los Angeles. It seems easy to just wait until he committed another crime, then arrest and/or deport him. (Being an illegal criminal is a felony in itself). However the police obviously does not have the money to follow gang members around and conduct constant surveillance to wait for a crime. In this case, the crime was the murder of a high-school football player. Supporting Special Order 40 would mean that something like this would have to take place before the gang member would be arrested. It must be frustrating for police officers driving around the neighborhoods they are to be protecting, seeing gang members come back time after time and commit crimes and not be able to simply get rid of them. The legal aspect is (taken from judicialwatch.org) that 'Congress enacted legislation that states that a Federal, State, or local government entity or official may not prohibit, or in any way restrict, any government entity or official from sending to, or receiving from, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement information regarding the citizenship or immigration status, lawful or unlawful, of any individual. California law mandates that police officers enforce immigration laws and work with federal immigration officials.' So this police mandate, in effect, violates this law. The ultimate point is that Jamiel's law does serve a purpose besides just getting rid of illegal immigrants (it is to get rid of gang members) and challenges the legality of Special Order 40. Furthermore, I would hope that we can trust the police not to simply start mass-arresting illegal immigrants in Los Angeles based on profiling. Perhaps the order can be altered that there must be reasonable cause based on past history of crimes or whatever in order to confront a person based on their immigration status.

Kelsey Claire Com 173 on December 11, 2008 at 4:59 p.m. wrote:

I completely agree with Bratton's opinion. I believe such a law would take away many citizen's rights. Those who may look like illegal immigrants but are here legally would be subject to police contact and questioning with absolutley no need for a basis. Although what happened to Jamiel Shaw was an awful crime, it does not justify enforcing such a law. The law is appealing to our sense of fear. When fear is used to get laws passed, often many civil rights are compromised. Those who readily approve such a proposal are not thinking of the consequences. In theory, it sounds like a good idea to get 'dangerous' illegal immigrants off the street, but in reality this would not be the case.

Aida Ter-Khachatryan on December 10, 2008 at 2:40 a.m. wrote:

Why shouldn't the police arrest these gang members? It doesn't matter if they are citizens, immigrants, or here illegally. A serious crime like murder should not be taken lightly just because the gang member was an illegal immigrant. If there are laws prohibiting the government to take any action against the illegal immigrant, the governemnt of the country from where the criminal is originally from should take control of the situation and punish the criminal the same way as they would with murder that occurs in their country. Just because the crime did not occur in the country does not mean that they should be let off more easily.

Nahal Hamidi on December 9, 2008 at 7:50 p.m. wrote:

I believe this initiative is a violation of a person's civil rights because there is not enough probable cause to have a police officer contact someone because they might be an illegal immigrant. While this might curtail some gang violence in Los Angeles, I don't think the benefits will outweigh the cost of a such a measure. By cost, I don't mean fiscally, but the racial profiling that will occur and the kinds of reactions it will stir within the community. Those who are not illegal immigrants, will feel accused and racially discriminated against. Also, it is not clear if only those who belong to gangs will contacted or just people who are suspected of being illegal immigrants. If it is just anyone who is suspected of being an illegal immigrant, on what basis are these suspicion being made upon? Unless there are ways besides racial profiling to determine who is an illegal immigrant or not, I don't support this measure.

Michelle Lepich on December 7, 2008 at 7:05 p.m. wrote:

I agree that this initiative opens the door to blatant racial profiling. Although many people do not approve of joining a gang, I do not believe there are any laws against simply being a member. It is not until the gang member commits a crime that they are subject to arrest. If there are already means of punishing gang members who commit crimes and deporting them if they are illegally living in the United States, then there is no need to provide more excuses for police to target their arrests based on race. If police are not required to start an investigation of someone only after they commit a crime, how would the police identify an individual as an illegal immigrant and gang member without first doing background checks that will be racially discriminatory. If there is any way for this initiative to pass, there must be more stipulations that would keep police activity in check, and protect the rights of citizens who could potentially be targeted because of their ethnicity.

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