INS Probes Its Role in Rampart Case

Friday, February 25, 2000
Home Edition
Section: Metro
Page: B-1

Scandal: Investigation will focus on agents’ statements that LAPD anti-gang officers used them to get Latinos deported in violation of city policy.

By: ANNE-MARIE O’CONNOR
TIMES STAFF WRITER


The Immigration and Naturalization Service is investigating allegations that its agents helped anti-gang officers in the LAPD Rampart Division have more than 160 Latino immigrants deported and 40 others prosecuted for illegal reentry into the United States, an agency representative said Thursday.

The allegations, reported Thursday in The Times, also prompted Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Los Angeles), chairwoman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, to call for an emergency meeting with INS Commissioner Doris Meissner and Deputy Atty. Gen. Eric Holder.

“I am outraged that the LAPD’s Rampart Division targeted Hispanics and used INS agents to circumvent the law,” Roybal-Allard said. “The ongoing investigation of the LAPD and Rampart Division is revealing an intolerable abuse of power. I intend to pursue an investigation into the actions of the LAPD and other police departments and INS offices nationwide.”

The allegations were made by INS agents who worked for the agency’s Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force from June 1997 to October 1998, when their unit was deployed to process the Latino detainees’ cases.

The INS agents said they protested their involvement in the program to their supervisors because the Los Angeles Police Department’s arrests seemed to circumvent a 21-year-old city policy that orders police officers not to “initiate police action with the objective of discovering the alien status of a person.”

The INS agents also said they did not believe that many of the detainees were gang members, as the LAPD alleged.

Virginia Kice, the spokeswoman for the INS western region, said the investigation will be overseen by the INS office of internal audit in Washington and carried out by INS investigators from Washington and California.

“These employees are suggesting that our cooperative efforts as part of this gang enforcement initiative may have been inappropriate, so we are going to investigate,” Kice said.

INS agents said they processed the deportations of more than 160 Rampart area Latino immigrants in 1997 and 1998 and referred about 40 more for prosecution for illegal reentry to the United States, which is a felony.

In other cases, they said, incriminating allegations reported by Rampart anti-gang officers were included in immigration files and influenced federal authorities’ decisions on whether to grant or deny some immigrants U.S. citizenship.

In Washington, Atty. Gen. Janet Reno was asked why the Justice Department and the FBI have been “so slow to get involved” in investigating the Rampart police scandal.

“The local authorities were handling the case,” Reno said. “We are going to continue to review it from an independent point of view, try to provide whatever assistance we can, and at the same time determine whether there is any basis for a federal investigation.”

Asked if she was confident that LAPD Chief Bernard C. Parks is capable of handling the crisis, Reno replied that “we want to try to give assistance, while at the same time remaining independent.”

“The ultimate goal here is to see that people who have done wrong are brought to justice and that there is an appropriate response,” Reno said.

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