ORANGE, Calif. - The ACLU of Southern California sent a letter today to Assembly Republicans expressing concerns about Orange County hearings about the impact of undocumented immigrants on California that do not include an opportunity for public testimony.

'We are concerned these so-called 'town hall forums' will fail to give the full picture,' said Hector Villagra, director of the ACLU/SC Orange County office. 'Many studies show undocumented immigrants create jobs, boost the economy, and pay more in taxes than they use in services and benefits'

The letter to Republican Assemblyman Chuck DeVore of Irvine urged his group to consider the vast research demonstrating undocumented immigrants' positive effects on the U.S. economy. 'They work, spend money, and pay taxes,' the letter stated. 'They are an integral part of our country, and, over the next decade, will play an increasingly vital role in achieving economic prosperity in the United States.'

The hearings today in Tustin and tomorrow in Yorba Linda will also address public safety - as Orange County leaders are poised to consider a dangerous law-enforcement proposal. The ACLU/SC opposes a proposal by Sheriff Michael Carona to deputize police as immigration enforcers, which would harm, not enhance, public safety by making community policing more difficult.

'Making illegal immigrants a target of police doesn't keep us safe,' said ACLU/SC staff attorney Belinda Escobosa Helzer. 'It makes all immigrants more fearful of police and scared to report crimes and that makes it harder for police to do their work.'

Law-enforcement leaders nationwide agree that such policies have a negative effect on police relations with immigrants. The ACLU/SC is part of a coalition that has asked Orange County supervisors to reject an expensive and unnecessary plan to train deputies to check immigration status.

Four groups joined the ACLU/SC in the letter to Assembly Republicans: The Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, Los Amigos of Orange County, Asian Pacific American Legal Center of Southern California, and Sweatshop Watch.