ANAHEIM — A councilman's proposal to station an immigration officer at the City Jail is receiving lukewarm support from his colleagues and criticism from a Latino civil rights group.
Councilman Bob Zemel defended his proposal Thursday, contending that such a move would have as much impact as placing an additional 20 police officers on the street, because there would be fewer criminals to contend with.
"I'm trying to find the fastest way we can send a message" to criminals, said Zemel, who will try to convince his colleagues on Tuesday that the city should hire an Immigration and Naturalization Service agent--even if Anaheim has to pay the estimated annual cost of $50,000 to $75,000.
The agent would determine whether suspects are in the country legally, Zemel said.
"If they are illegal, the judge then will know they are a flight risk and will deal with them differently," he said.
No jail in Orange County has such an arrangement with the INS, though the immigration agency has placed agents at the Los Angeles County Jail in a pilot program.
But Zemel's proposal is drawing fire from some in the community.
"I believe its an over-reaction and it's not necessary," said Amin David, chairman of Los Amigos of Orange County, a Latino civil rights group.
Mayor Tom Daly and two other council members said Thursday that, although they favor a crackdown on illegal immigrants who break the law in Anaheim, they do not want to spend city money to hire an INS officer.
"The control of immigration is a traditional responsibility of the federal government," Daly said. "Certainly the federal government should provide funding for any work or services related to the INS."
Councilmen Lou Lopez and Frank Feldhaus agreed.
"If there are federal monies available, I'd rather see the feds doing the job than the city," Feldhaus said. "But the idea is a good one."
Zemel said federal funding is doubtful, however.
"I just don't see it happening," he said, "and to stall this wonderful idea from going forward would be a darn shame. I want an INS agent in our jail tomorrow, if possible."
Zemel's proposal was prompted by the shooting of Anaheim Police Officer Tim Garcia, who is recovering from gunshot wounds he suffered in a Sept. 8 shootout with an illegal immigrant who had been deported twice.