ANAHEIM — The city will ask the federal government for an immigration officer to be permanently stationed at the Anaheim City Jail to identify arrestees who are illegal immigrants, the City Council decided Tuesday.
The action follows a shootout last month between Anaheim Police Officer Tim Garcia and an illegal immigrant who had been twice deported. The immigrant was killed, and Garcia was seriously wounded.
"There are no losers with this idea, except the bad guys," said Officer Harald Martin, representing the Anaheim Police Assn.
Identification of arrestees as illegal immigrants would be presented to the court even before arraignment to persuade a judge to allow the suspect to be held as a flight risk. Too often, officials said, illegal immigrants who are told to return to court for arraignment don't. The system also would allow the Immigration and Naturalization Service to identify the suspect for eventual deportation.
All five council members said they back the concept of stationing an INS agent at the City Jail. It is unclear, however, if the council would agree to pay for the agent, a cost estimated at $75,000 annually.
Mayor Tom Daly said Anaheim should attempt to obtain federal funding to offset at least part of the expense, while at the same time encouraging the INS and the U.S. government "to do their jobs better."
But Councilman Bob Zemel warned that seeking federal money for the pilot program may be a futile effort that results in long delays.
"I don't think we have time to wait for the government wheels in Washington to turn," Zemel said.