Santa Ana Police Department: taking payoffs to jail the innocent

Ruth Hull
Activist Post

In Santa Ana, real criminals never need fear arrest as police get $ to arrest law-abiding fathers, brothers, sisters, and children who have committed no crime except for failing to have their proof of citizenship. Do you have yours?

In Santa Ana, crime victims are rarely able to obtain assistance from the police when it’s needed. Police routinely ignore bruises, broken windows, and evidence of extreme violence. Policemen laugh as girls report child sexual abuse. Officers watch as elderly victims of torture are carried into ambulances. After the victims are removed, these officers allow violent intruders to occupy their homes. (Orange County case files: 30-2011-00503154-CU-PO-CJC)

Residents have been stunned by the lack of police support for actual crime victims in Santa Ana. But now the puzzle has been solved.

The Santa Ana Police Department is taking payoffs from ICE (Immigration and Custom Enforcement) to pick up law abiding people, fitting a racial profile, who have misplaced their identification or documents. Former Police Chief Paul Walters stated, “We treat [the jail] as a business.” Often these people, mostly Latinos, are legal citizens or residents. Has your driver’s license ever been missing? If so, there could be a cell in Santa Ana for you. But only if you fit the profile.

Roughly two thirds of the nation’s immigrant detainees are being held in local jails. Santa Ana has created two special dormitories for the purpose of housing undocumented residents.

70% of those picked up for the ICE holds have never violated any law. Of the remaining 30%, most of the violations are infractions – like speeding. In exchange for warehousing law-abiding people, the City of Santa Ana receives $87/day under a contract with ICE. It was estimated that payouts had been over $55 million in 2008 and roughly $57 million in 2009. The idea behind the SAPD contract with ICE was to make up for a budget shortfall. Eventually the detainee may be deported – even if he is a U.S. citizen.

Families have been broken up. Children have been orphaned. Neighborhoods have been thrown into tragedy by these racist tactics, reminiscent of the American roundups of Asians during World War II. Here, the incarceration is worse than the re-location of the 1940s. The immigrant detention facilities in Orange County are among the nation’s worst.

Fed up with the Santa Ana Police Department’s racist incarcerations for $, residents of Santa Ana came out en masse to the Santa Ana City Council meeting of May 6, 2013. Some people came to the meeting to speak on other issues and found themselves using their time to speak out against the ICE contract.

One of the most touching speakers was Villamar Ortiz, accompanied by her nine-year-old daughter Madeline Peralta. Though Madeline is a U.S. citizen, like her mother, her father Marco was taken by the Santa Ana Police Department on February 15, 2013 and is still being held while the police rake in $87/day for his incarceration – even though he committed no crime.

Christian Larsen pointed out that victims of domestic violence don’t dare speak out as speaking out will get them held and deported. As a domestic violence victim, myself, I know that it is very common for batterers to take the identification of their victims. Women who fit SAPD’s profile for immigrants will find themselves in a different kind of prison if they try to leave their violent abusers.

Scott Sink gave a scholarly speech about how NAFTA and the IMF (International Monetary Fund) have destroyed the livelihood of Mexican farmers. We force undocumented workers up here and then local police lock them up for profit as part of the prison-industrial complex.

It was pointed out that Barack Obama’s deportation of almost two million immigrants has broken up families and created a climate of fear across America. Later, even City Counsel members spoke on the need to discuss reform of federal policies.

Former Police Chief and former City Manager, Paul Walters,who ushered in the policy of corruption, was fired earlier this year. Other problems relating to the city management by Walters included discrimination against the elderly, the disabled, and crime victims. At the December City Council meeting, it was pointed out that crime victims were being charged for services rendered to perpetrators of crimes against them. Later the utility services of crime victims were cut if they could not pay the perpetrators’ bills. 

The corruption was more extensive than that. The city continued to bill crime victims large sums for services not received at their residence for dates after the services were terminated and not even offered. To increase the losses to crime victims, the city fined them for not have having the services which the city had terminated. This problem has continued and was brought up at the May 6th meeting in the hopes of abating this discrimination against helpless crime victims.

In her comments, City Councilwoman Michelle Martinez expressed her concerns about the ICE contract and asked for an evaluation of the impact of terminating it. A resolution was being prepared by City Attorney, Sonia Carvolho, who was present at the meeting. Mayor Miguel Pullido asked that one of the members add the issue of the ICE contract to the agenda for the next meeting.

It remains to be seen what steps Santa Ana will take to end discrimination against immigrants, the elderly, crime victims and the disabled in Santa Ana. The discussion at the end of the meeting provided some hope that there would be change.

Ruth Hull is an activist and writer whose career has included work as a criminal defense attorney, a licensed private investigator, and an educator.

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