Sheriff Lee Baca is stepping down, his decision has received mixed reviews, but most Latino leaders are celebrating his decision to retire. Sheriff Baca took a hard line approach on immigration enforcement even before the controversial federal program Secure Communities was created. Under Baca's leadership, Los Angeles County was one of the few Hispanic dominant communities to voluntarily sign on to 287(g), in which the Sherriff's department basically entered into a partnership with ICE and gave deputies the authority to enforce immigration laws.
Baca's mother was at one time an undocumented immigrant and while most would assume this would make him empathetic it seems to have done the opposite. Baca's mother put him in foster care until his paternal grandmother took custody. His relationship with the pro-immigrant Latino community was always a controversial one.
Angelica Salas of the Coalition for Humane Immigration Rights of Los Angeles released a statement that pulled no punches. "Sheriff Baca has been no friend to the immigrant community. Thousands upon thousands of undocumented families living in Los Angeles County who committed no major offense have been deported and faced years of unscrupulous detentions and referrals to immigration officials through Mr. Baca's misguided embrace of "Secure Communities." In addition to this abhorrent practice shunned by many of his colleagues elsewhere, a growing reputation that the Sheriff Department has become a lawless institution which commits abuse and racially profiles communities without impunity has raised plenty of red flags for voters. Whatever his reasons for leaving, Sheriff Baca will not be missed by our community."
Many argued that his tough approach created distrust and fear among Latinos toward law enforcement. Last year, Baca seemed to ease his stance and decided to stop turning over low-level immigrant offenders to ICE, but most immigration rights advocates thought it was too little, too late. Now the hope in this community is that the next Sheriff will in the words of Salas be a "more open, pro-immigrant, pro-Los Angeles community Sheriff."