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CNS--A last-minute push December 5 from supporters of "Jamiel's Law" resulted in more than 76,000 signed petitions that could get the initiative on the city ballot next spring. The family of Jamiel Shaw, a 17-year-old high school football player who was killed in March, gave the signed petitions to the City Clerk's Office just before the 5 p.m. deadline last Friday. The standout athlete was allegedly killed by a 19-year-old gang member who was in the country illegally.
The initiative would give Los Angeles police officers the right to arrest undocumented gang members before they commit crimes. The valid signatures of 73,963 Los Angeles registered voters are needed to qualify the measure for the May ballot.
"People were bringing (the petitions) in so fast," said Althea Shaw, the slain teen's aunt. "It was a Hail Mary, but we made it."
It will take the city clerk's office several days to verify the signatures.
"Jamiel's Law" author Walter Moore, an attorney who is running for mayor, hopes to persuade the City Council to place the measure on the ballot if not enough signatures are verified.
"I hope that if they are a few hundred or thousand signatures short, that the members of the City Council will put this on the May ballot any way," Moore said.
"They should at least let the people of L.A. vote on it."
The council has until Jan. 14 to ask the City Attorney's Office to prepare measures for the ballot. Since 1979, the Los Angeles Police Department has operated under Special Order 40, which prevents officers from initiating contact with suspects for the sole purpose of inquiring about their immigration status. The policy was implemented so undocumented residents could report crimes and cooperate with police without fear of being deported.
The text of Jamiel's Law says the police department should develop a policy to "identify, arrest, deport and/or prosecute and imprison gang members who are in the country illegally, without waiting to catch them committing murders or other crimes before enforcing the immigration laws against them."
Moore said the difference between Jamiel's Law and Special Order 40 is whether action is taken before or after a crime has been committed.
"With Jamiel's Law, you can go after a gang member for violating immigration law before the gang member commits some other crime," Moore said.
"With Special Order 40, as worded, you can go after a gang member or anyone, actually, for an immigration crime, but only after you catch them committing some additional crime."
The LAPD and American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California both support Special Order 40. At a hearing convened by the Public Safety Committee in October, ACLU attorney Peter Bibring testified that Secial Order 40 is needed to keep immigrant communities engaged with police. LAPD Deputy Chief Sergio Diaz echoed that sentiment.
"Los Angeles police officers do not have the time, nor do they have the expertise, to (apprehend illegal immigrants)," Diaz said then. "It may appear to some people that it's very easy to determine who is an illegal alien. It is not. You cannot do that based on clothing, appearance or accent."