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LA Mayor Eric Garcetti Endorsed One Of The Most Anti-Immigrant Sheriffs in California

A Mayor who is a “forceful immigrant rights advocate” would spend his time fighting Jim McDonnell. Instead, Garcetti endorsed him.

LA County Sheriff McDonnell (not for long) and LA City Mayor Eric Garcetti

Considering the atrocities being committed by US authorities at the border right now, we should be aware of how our local politicians fit into such an inhumane system.

Far from resisting, LA Mayor Eric Garcetti has actively aided the worst parts of our immigration enforcement regime. The clearest example of this is his recent endorsement of Sheriff Jim McDonnell’s failed re-election bid to lead the LA County Sheriff’s Department (LASD).

Garcetti presumably assumed, like most people, that McDonnell would win easily. This endorsement, then, is pretty consistent with Garcetti’s standard playbook of not upsetting anyone with power, while letting his Democratic Party affiliation, progressive rhetoric (but not action), and mildly handsome face do the rest in a city where voter turnout for the mayoral election is only 20%.

Immigrants, meanwhile, get thrown under the bus — or, more accurately, forcibly deported.

But now McDonnell, one of the most anti-immigrant Sheriffs in the entire state, has lost to Alex Villanueva, who ran as a progressive (don’t get your hopes up) and was supported by organizations like the LA Democratic Party and the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights LA (CHIRLA).

This matters! LA’s Sheriff is probably the single most powerful person in Southern California when it comes to immigration enforcement. At LASD, he (unfortunately, it’s always been “he”) manages a staff of 18,000 people, a budget of $3 billion, and runs the largest jail system in the world — all in a county with 3.5 million immigrants. McDonnell used this power to wage a war on immigrant communities.

A Mayor who is a “forceful immigrant rights advocate” — as Garcetti was absurdly referred to by the LA Times — would spend his time fighting Sheriff Jim McDonnell. Instead, Garcetti endorsed him, because immigrants mostly aren’t rich, and mostly aren’t white.

This is, again, largely consistent with Garcetti’s record on immigration.

He refuses to do anything to make LA an actual sanctuary city, and won’t even entertain discussions on what that might look like — “I’m still not sure what one is,” he says.

About the best he’s done is allocate $2 million to a legal fund for people in LA County facing deportation proceedings (LAPD’s budget is $1.5 billion, for comparison), and slightly expand an LAPD policy from 1979 that prohibits city officials from actively enforcing immigration law. He’s too busy being away from LA literally one-out-of-three days, spending time instead in Iowa and New Hampshire to definitely not run for President in 2020.

But it’s still sort of surprising that Garcetti would buck his own party to endorse Sheriff Jim McDonnell, whose record on immigration issues is atrocious, and who’s probably the public official in LA most like Donald Tr*mp.

An open letter to the County Board of Supervisors from October, 2018, signed by over 30 local organizations — groups like ACLU SoCal, CHIRLA, the National Lawyers Guild, the UCLA Labor Center, and so on —makes this clear. They describe LASD’s posture towards immigrants under McDonnell as “out-of-control,” and criticize how “Sheriff McDonnell has affirmatively chosen to participate directly and indirectly in immigration enforcement — and to be a firm voice in opposition of state-level protections for the County’s noncitizen residents.”

The supposedly-former Republican sheriff strongly opposed the state-level sanctuary bill, SB 54, and, after it passed, bragged about how his department worked to aggressively water-down the final version.

McDonnell has consistently worked with ICE to a degree that goes far beyond what is required by law. He “has actively facilitated transfers to immigration authorities — providing ‘on-demand’ access to County databases, affirmatively sharing information about imminent releases from jail or court, and directly transferring County residents to ICE custody.”

Thanks to McDonnell, at LASD-run jails, ICE screens over 500 immigrants per month and took 2,100 people into custody in 2016–17. Many of these people were being held for minor and non-violent offenses, meaning McDonnell allowed this to happen “in direct conflict to stated interests of the County’s elected officials.”

He’s even broken state law by “sharing information with ICE where that information was not provided to the public.” And he lied about ICE having a permanent office at the location where inmates are booked and released, only to be outed by a report by the County’s Inspector General.

So, McDonnell has gone out of his way to work with Tr*mp’s racist enforcement regime, breaking both state law and policy directives from the County. And Mayor Eric Garcetti endorsed this guy, because Garcetti cares about Garcetti, and his calculation was that he should have a good relationship with LA’s extremely powerful Sheriff.