Why Can't Cops Enforce Immigration Laws?

In Los Angeles, we will soon learn the results of a petition drive aimed at placing Jamiel's Law on ballots for the city's May 2009 municipal election. The proposed law, written by upstart mayoral candidate Walter Moore, would give Los Angeles Police Department officers a more active role in identifying and apprehending illegal alien street gang members. Currently, LAPD officers are for the most part prohibited from taking action against illegal aliens under the terms of Special Order 40, a 1979 revision to the department's regulations. The "Jamiel" of the law's title refers to Jamiel Shaw, a 17-year-old Los Angeles resident who was shot and killed last March. That a young man should meet such a fate is, sadly, not all that uncommon in some parts of Los Angeles, but what made Jamiel's murder all the more tragic is the manifest failure of his government, both local and federal, to prevent it from happening.

The man accused of murdering Jamiel and now awaiting trial is Pedro Espinoza, a 19-year-old illegal alien from Mexico. News reports have chronicled Espinoza's lengthy criminal history as well as his membership in the 18th Street gang, which taken together might be expected to have attracted the attention of Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agents. Alas, only a day before he allegedly murdered Jamiel Shaw, Espinoza was released from Los Angeles County Jail after serving a sentence for brandishing a handgun at a public park. Systems already in place at the jail should have identified Espinoza as a deportable alien and landed him in the clutches of ICE agents. How exactly those systems failed in this case has yet to be satisfactorily explained.