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Fuel for immigration debate

UPROAR OVER SPECIAL ORDER 40

April 20, 2008

Instituted in 1979 by then-Chief Daryl F. Gates, Special Order 40 states that Los Angeles Police Department "officers shall not initiate police action with the objective of discovering the alien status of a person." The order was meant to send a message to immigrants who had been victimized or had witnessed crimes that they could cooperate with police without fear of deportation. The rule has long been controversial and confusing, with many people -- including some LAPD officers -- believing it prohibits police from ever inquiring about the immigration status of suspects. Immigration rights groups hail Special Order 40 as an example of progressive policing, but the rule has come under attack from others, including anti-illegal immigration activists, who have sued to kill the order. Amid new proposals to modify Special Order 40, The Times asked people with different perspectives on the issue to share their views.

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The future for 40

Current rules

* The LAPD's Special Order 40 states that police officers cannot stop people for the sole purpose of asking about immigration status.

* LAPD rules do allow officers to ask about immigration status as part of an arrest or booking process.

* Local jails also check the immigration status of inmates. Police and immigration officials have identified 20,000 illegal immigrants in Southern California jails between December 2006 and January 2008.

Proposed changes

* Councilman Dennis Zine: LAPD officers investigating gang members who they believe are illegal immigrants would be required to check their immigration status, even if the suspects were not under arrest. If a gang member was here illegally, officers would be required to notify federal immigration officials.

* Family of slain high school football player Jamiel Shaw Jr.: Officers could routinely check the immigration status of known gang members who are crime suspects.

* Anti-illegal immigration activists: Drop Special Order 40 altogether.

Source: Times reporting

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VOICES

Hundreds of readers shared their opinions on latimes.com after the father of Jamiel Shaw Jr., the Los Angeles High School football star fatally shot by an illegal immigrant gang member, called for changes to Special Order 40. Here are some excerpts:

"Beat cops should not have to enforce federal law. Write your congressmen and ask them to grow a backbone so they may empower [federal Immigrations and Customs Enforcement] to enforce the laws that are already on the books!"

-- Ryan

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"While my heart goes out to the Shaw family, it is no excuse for scapegoating the Latino community for the gang violence that ravages our communities."

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"I fully support the complete repeal of Special Order 40. I never believed that it made it easier for illegals to report crime, and crime stats never supported this idea. It's time to think about what's best for citizens."

-- Mike

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"I am against this type of proposal, because it will be pure discrimination against one ethic group. I am 100% sure that the police officers will not ask any other race about their legal status other than Hispanics."

-- Yolanda

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Read more and share your own comments at latimes.com/specialorder40.

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