Prosecutors in Los Angeles County will now have to weigh the effects charging decisions will have on the immigration status of suspects and are encouraged to seek diversion programs to help avoid deportations, according to a new directive.
The policy from District Attorney George Gascon is another in a long list of progressive measures to overhaul how justice is sought in the nation's largest district attorney's office.
According to the policy, which was obtained by Fox News, alternatives to criminal convictions should be considered, such as avoiding charging for criminal enhancements, which can significantly increase one's prison sentence, "that would turn an otherwise immigration neutral offense into an immigration damaging one."
"That's basically saying, ‘We’re going to give you a pass because you used a gun,'" Eric Siddall, vice president of the Association for Deputy District Attorneys of Los Angeles County, told Fox News Digital.
Anyone under criminal investigation can contact the DA's office to "present information concerning adverse immigration consequences" before a case is filed, the measure states, a policy that has been the norm, Siddall said.
"All charging determinations shall be undertaken with the goal of avoiding or mitigating the adverse immigration consequences of a decision when known, possible pr permitting," the policy says. "Under these circumstances and when, consistent with public safety alternatives to filing charges exist, those alternatives shall be pursued."
The policy further states that pre-trial diversion programs can help deter deportation and other impacts on the immigration status of suspects. Prosecutors are still barred from cooperating with federal immigration authorities.
The district attorney's office said the policy prioritizes public safety and protects immigrants.
"The Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office consulted with our staff, community stakeholders and immigration experts to craft a comprehensive Immigration policy that protects vulnerable victims and prioritizes safety while attempting to avoid overly punitive consequences for the accused," Tiffany Blackwell, communications director for the DA's office, said in a statement to Fox News Digital. "We believe that we have achieved that result. We will continue to rely upon our staff to provide us with relevant information that will assist in making the determination if alternative sentencing is warranted."
In cases where a motion has been made to vacate a conviction based on consequences to a suspect's immigration status, prosecutors should consider agreeing with the motion if it's determined that had the consequences been raised during the initial proceedings, a different resolution would have been reached, the policy states.
Siddall, who has frequently criticized Gascon's directives, said the new policy potentially discriminates against native-born suspects because they aren't at risk of deportation and won't be given the same consideration when charging decisions are made.
"That's saying we're going to give better deals to someone because of their immigration status," he said.
Gascon has frequently come under fire for measures critics say enable criminals and do little to enhance public safety.
Since taking office in December 2020, Gascon has survived two recall attempts and a flurry of criticism from crime victims, elected and law enforcement officials, as well as his own prosecutors.