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Saturday, July 17, 2004

Illegal alien advocates meet with Corona Police Chief and demand they not enforce laws

PE.com | Inland Southern California | Local News
CORONA: The department defends its handling of an immigrant. The group urges a policy change.
10:20 PM PDT on Friday, July 16, 2004
By DOUGLAS QUAN / The Press-Enterprise

Corona police officials said Friday that they did nothing wrong when they released an undocumented Honduran immigrant into the custody of Border Patrol authorities earlier this month. The man later died in a Temecula Border Patrol cell in an apparent suicide.

Officials made the comments after a 45-minute meeting with about a dozen Latino immigration activists who were seeking answers in the case of 28-year-old Ecar Paz Moradel. The activists said it's not the job of Corona police - or any police department - to enforce immigration laws and suggested that Moradel might still be alive if he hadn't been turned over to Border Patrol authorities.

"The lines (between law enforcement and immigration) are clear," said Armando Navarro, coordinator of the National Alliance for Human Rights. "We don't want this situation repeated."


David Bauman / The Press-Enterprise
Angela Sanbrano, an official with the Central American Resource Center, speaks with Sgt. Jerry Rodriguez, left, a public information officer with the Corona Police Department, and Capt. Raymond Cota after she and other immigration activists met with the Corona police chief to discuss the police department's policy concerning its relationship with the U.S. Border Patrol.



But Corona police Sgt. Jerry Rodriguez said department policy allows officers to call the Border Patrol if the undocumented immigrant they've detained is suspected of committing a felony. Police officials have said that Moradel was arrested July 1 on suspicion of vandalism and being under the influence of methamphetamine.

Rodriguez said Friday that it is rare for officers to call in immigration authorities. But, in this case, officers thought the call was warranted because Moradel had had multiple run-ins with police in a short period of time.

Police have said they first encountered Moradel on the night of June 30, when officers suspected he was under the influence of methamphetamine and arrested him. Within a few hours of his release the following morning, police were called to a Corona veterinary hospital with a report that a man was trying to break in. Police escorted Moradel from the business.

Later that morning, police were called back to the clinic. They arrested Moradel on suspicion of breaking a window.

While he was being detained at the station, he was given the opportunity to call the Honduran consulate, but he refused that offer, Rodriguez said. The decision was then made by the on-duty watch commander to call Border Patrol officials.

According to the Corona Police Department's policy on arresting or detaining foreign nationals, "If an officer believes that an individual taken into custody for a felony is also an undocumented alien, after he or she is formally booked and there is no intention to transport to the County Jail, the BICE (Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement) may be informed by the arresting officer so that they may consider placing an 'immigration hold' on the individual."

Later that evening, Border Patrol authorities found Moradel dead. Consular officials have said a 90-minute video shows that Moradel apparently hanged himself with a metal chain linked to his handcuffs and a bench.

Navarro and other activists who met with Corona Police Chief Richard Gonzales on Friday said they want the department to reword its policy to make it "crystal clear" that the department is not an arm of immigration.

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