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Case for INS Agent at Jail Bolstered : Immigration: A third of those arrested in Anaheim in a 60-day period were in the country illegally, study says.

December 16, 1995|GREG HERNANDEZ and ALAN EYERLY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

ANAHEIM — City officials released a study Friday showing that more than a third of the people arrested in Anaheim during a recent 60-day period admitted to being in the country illegally.

The survey results may boost the city's efforts to get federal approval of a $37,000 pilot program that would place at the city jail an INS official who would have access to federal computer records to help identify a suspect's immigration status and criminal history.

Jailers began asking each arrestee about their citizenship status in October. This policy was enacted following the Sept. 8 shooting of Anaheim Police Officer Tim Garcia by an illegal immigrant who had been deported twice before. The suspect was killed in the exchange of gunfire, and Garcia was seriously wounded.

An INS agent is needed, city officials contend, to identify illegal immigrants before their court appearances because they pose a flight risk.

"They go in front of a judge, they use a phony name, the judge releases them on their own recognizance," Councilman Bob Zemel said. "By the time we find out who this guy really is, he's gone out and committed another crime. And that's key to the issue."

A total of 1,445 people were arrested during October and November, the jail survey period. Of that total, 511--or 35%--admitted they were illegal immigrants, city officials said.

The survey revealed that at least four of the people arrested had lengthy arrest records and had used numerous dates of birth and aliases.

One man, arrested last month for selling drugs in Pearson Park, had been arrested 34 times--mostly for burglary--and had used 51 different names. He had been deported in 1994.

Another man had been arrested 22 times since 1973 before being deported in 1990. During those years, he had used 57 aliases and 23 different dates of birth. He has been arrested twice since the 1990 deportation.

Among the illegal immigrants arrested, 233 were booked for a parole violation or had a warrant out for their arrest.

One person was booked on suspicion of murder, 22 were arrested for assault and battery, 190 were arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs and 78 were arrested for burglary and possession of stolen property.

Other crimes included spousal abuse, assault with a deadly weapon, robbery, resisting arrest, assault and battery on a police officer, and public drunkenness.

The city has been working closely in recent months with INS officials, who have requested a more detailed analysis of arrestees. To help achieve this, INS investigators last week trained police officers at the jail on how to better identify the citizenship status of arrestees.

The city will begin a second 60-day study in January to help determine where in Anaheim the arrests are occurring. Police will divide the city into five sections to gather this information.

Anaheim must receive INS approval before beginning the six-month pilot program, even if the city is willing to pay for the it.

"I believe we are making great progress," said Zemel, who has spearheaded the effort. "At the end of the six-month pilot program, this will be a plan we can hand down to cities throughout Orange County and the country, if it proves successful."

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