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ACLU & City Join to Protect Special Order 40

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Special Order 40 is a nearly 30-year-old law in Los Angeles that prohibits Los Angeles police officers from asking people about their immigration status. Part of the intent is to get more community cooperation when investigating a crime. Illegal immigrants who witness or know something about a crime would more likely avoid police because of their status without the order.

A 2006 citizen filed lawsuit will be challenged today by the City of Los Angeles and the ACLU on the grounds that it is not a triable case. The suit says that Special Order 40 is "essentially a `Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policy regarding illegal aliens" and that it hinders coordination between local and federal officials. But the city and ACLU contend that it is in compliance with federal law and that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has never complained.

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The recent murder of Jamiel Shaw, Jr., brought Special Order 40 back into the limelight when it was found that the accused killer was an illegal immigrant gang member who was just released from jail. If he known to be in the country illegally, he may have been deported before hitting the streets again, crossing paths with Shaw. However, the gang member was not held in a jail within Los Angeles where the order is not enforced. A motion introduced by Councilman Dennis Zine currently sits with the LA City Council to modify the order to allow police to look into the immigration status of gang members.