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A U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement bus parked outside of an immigration federal court in downtown San Diego. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

The federal government has been dramatically ramping up its immigration enforcement at worksites across the country over the last year.

We saw an example of it here in San Diego earlier this month when immigration officials arrested 26 workers at Zion Market, a large Korean grocery store in Kearny Mesa.

In fiscal year 2018, Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations opened 6,848 worksite investigations nationwide. That’s roughly a 305 percent increase from the year before, when 1,691 investigations were opened. In San Diego, HSI agents opened 302 worksite investigations and initiated 282 audits in fiscal year 2018. They expect to initiate another 265 worksite audits in fiscal year 2019.

VOSD’s Maya Srikrishnan explains how the federal government is cracking down on employers and how the enforcement operation at Zion compares to other worksite crackdowns.

Four Big Findings From KPBS’s Series on an Infamous Gang Murder

Over the last week, KPBS’s Claire Trageser has been releasing a six-part podcast series called “Dr. J’s,” about a heinous gang murder in Lincoln Park whose impact is still galvanizing the community in southeastern San Diego in multiple ways.

The podcast wrapped Wednesday. You can listen to all six episodes here.

In the meantime, here’s four things that caught our attention in the series.

Call for more police intervention. The Commission on Gang Prevention and Intervention, a body created because of the Dr. J’s murder, in a 2007 report explicitly recommended a policy of “saturating a high-crime area with police presence, including stops of as many people as possible for all offenses.”

In the 12 years since, that’s become a controversial policing strategy, especially in the southeastern area that was home to the Dr. J’s murders.

An SDSU study, for instance, found minorities were pulled over at higher rates than their share of the population, which former Councilwoman Myrtle Cole defended as a sound policing strategy before losing a re-election bid when Councilwoman Monica Montgomery ran on a strong criminal justice reform platform. Public defender Genevieve Jones-Wright, who is from the district, last year also ran for district attorney pledging criminal justice reform; she lost the race but won in the southeastern district.

The DA won’t talk. The district attorney’s office would not talk to Trageser for the series, leaving her to quote from court documents and transcripts to include their perspective and prosecutorial strategy.

That’s noteworthy, if for no other reason than Robert Hickey, the deputy district attorney who prosecuted the case, was happy to talk about it back in 2016 when he was running for city attorney and regularly touted the prosecution as a reason to vote for him.

For one reason or another, that’s not something the DA’s office as a whole is willing to talk about anymore.

A generational divide. One episode of the series focused on the extent to which young residents of southeastern San Diego are advocating for a less heavy-handed police presence in the district, while their parents’ generation after the murder began working with police and actively requesting more police involvement. Montgomery handily defeated Cole in November, but the dynamic was perhaps revealing for how Cole could be so out-of-step with her constituents.

Earl McNeil’s history. Last year, Earl McNeil died in police custody in National City, setting off a demand for answers about how he died and whether there would be any repercussions for the officers involved.

Turns out, McNeil had been one of the prosecution’s key witnesses against James Carter,  who is serving a life sentence without parole for the crime at the heart of the podcast.

The State’s Best-Performing Schools

California’s new data tracking system — the California School Dashboard — is finally starting to bring clarity to which schools are performing best, and worst, in the state.

The state released a list of 162 schools on Monday that are among the best-performing in the state. Schools made the list for two consecutive years of academic excellence or two years of closing the achievement gap. Seven San Diego County schools made the list, the Union-Tribune reported, including three charter schools.

From 2013 until last year, the state did not have a system for tracking school performance. And last year, the state did not release lists of the best- and worst-performing schools, because the dashboard was brand new.

Earlier this month, the state released its list of lowest performing, without even issuing a press release.

Opinion: Hueso Bill Would Decimate the Public Records Act

As we reported Tuesday, a new bill introduced by state Sen. Ben Hueso and sponsored by the San Diego city attorney would make the enforcement of the California Public Records Act — one of the best and only tools that watchdogs can rely on — much more difficult. Specifically, it would require members of the public to bear the cost of lawsuits forcing the government to comply with its own transparency law.

In a new op-ed, Robert Fellner, executive director of Transparent California, a public pay database, argues that Hueso’s bill would allow governments to freely hide records from public view.

“This isn’t an unintended consequence of a poorly written bill; it’s intentional,” he writes.

Fellner runs through several instances in which Hueso would have preferred public records had remained in the dark.

In Other News

The Morning Report was written by Will Huntsberry and Andrew Keatts, and edited by Sara Libby.

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