Daily Dispatch 10/2/2019: Enforcement matters at the local level
October 2, 2019
Immigration policy has become the partisan political football of the season, and nowhere is this clearer than in the battle between local law police, who mostly do not want to become enforcement officers for ICE, and elected officials in GOP controlled states who take offense at the idea of “sanctuary cities.” In a few states, like California and New York, the tensions run the other way, where elected officials are pushing back against ICE enforcement measures and are seeking to restrict cooperation between ICE and local law enforcement from the state level. Of course, some local police officers do support ICE measures – and even in self-identified sanctuary cities, will violate local procedures and share information with ICE anyway.
What is clear is that trying to pull local and state police into the ICE enforcement machine has been a disaster, creating confusion about police responsibilities and deepening tension across levels of government. It also puts up a barrier between communities and police that result in people reluctant to come forward to report crimes and stand as witnesses. We take a look at a few stories from this last few days that illustrate the problem.
Florida requires all state law enforcement to cooperate with ICE
Yesterday we reported on a federal court limiting Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s use of detainers – specifically detainers issued solely on information from databases. The ruling applied only to the 9th Circuit in California – though significant in that this area includes one of ICE’s most active processing centers. In light of the multiple problems identified with ICE’s issuance of detainers in the court ruling – including orders to hold people for removal who are U.S. Citizens – it is sad to know that starting tomorrow, all state police and local officials in Florida will be required to cooperate with ICE.
This summer, Florida’s legislature passed law SB 168, which forbids sanctuary cities in the state. Though there is no formal definition of a sanctuary city, in most cases the framework of sanctuary involves non-compliance with ICE’s efforts to use local police as immigration enforcement officers. The most common way enforcement cooperation happens is information sharing between ICE and local police about people in custody, as well as ICE issuance of detainers – or requests that local law enforcement hold someone in custody for up to 48 hours so that ICE can arrest them on immigration charges. As noted yesterday, ICE issued 160,000 detainers last year.
Florida’s new law requires law enforcement to comply with detainer orders and to make their “best effort” to cooperate with ICE. The law allows state officials to take action against local leaders who do not comply, including their removal from office. From the Miami Herald:
To stay in compliance with the new Florida law, law enforcement offices in all 67 Florida counties will be required to enter into formal agreements with ICE. In the agreements, ICE promises to pay local governments $50 for holding an immigrant up to an extra two days. A group of Florida sheriffs were the first in the nation to reach these kinds of agreements with ICE in 2017. Under the new law, they are mandatory.
This part of the law has drawn protest from some departments that feel they were pressured into entering into agreements with ICE. Before the law was passed, the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office did not honor requests from ICE to detain people, because it felt the requests do not meet the “probable cause” threshold needed to keep someone in custody.
In June, the department entered into a formal agreement with ICE.
“We felt that we would get sued,” Art Forgey, a spokesman for the Alachua Sheriff’s Office, told WLRN at the time. “I don’t believe we would have entered into this agreement without the governor and Legislature doing this.”
The law was challenged in court after passage. However, yesterday a Federal District Court in Miami allowed the law to go forward, though the judge blocked one provision of the law that required Florida law enforcement officers to transport suspects across state lines if requested by ICE.
[U.S. District Judge Beth] Bloom ruled that local police cannot transport undocumented immigrants across state lines at the request of the feds, saying it is strictly the job of the federal government. Her ruling can be appealed.
However, her ruling maintained that local police departments would still be required to hold arrested people in jail for an extra two days until ICE picks them up.
She cited laws passed by Congress as opening the door for that kind of local and federal cooperation, shooting down a core argument of the lawsuit, filed by immigration advocates and the city of South Miami.
“Congress gave a clear indication that it sought to facilitate, not preempt, the type of cooperation that SB 168 mandates,” Bloom wrote in the order.
Meanwhile in Virginia….
A police officer in Fairfax County was suspended this week after turning someone over to Immigrant and Customs Enforcement during a traffic stop. Fairfax County has a long standing policy (from 2007) that forbids police from confirming an individual’s immigration status and taking them into custody solely on civil immigration violations. From the Washington Post:
“This is an unfortunate issue where the officer was confused,” [Fairfax County Police Chief Edwin C.] Roessler said. “We have trained on this issue a lot. This is the first time we’ve had a lapse in judgment, and the officer is being punished.”
Police said the incident began when the officer was called to a traffic accident in the Groveton area the afternoon of Sept. 21. The officer discovered that one of the drivers did not have a Virginia driver’s license and obtained the person’s information to run a check with the Department of Motor Vehicles, police said.
The check showed that ICE had issued an administrative violation to the person for failing to appear for a deportation hearing.
The officer verified the warrant through the Fairfax County Department of Public Safety Communications’ teletype section, which is responsible for checking on all warrants with originating agencies, police said.
Fairfax County has been one of the localities pushing back against the Trump administration, though issues remain restoring trust between the community and law enforcement.
Fairfax County has taken steps to help immigrants and cut ties with ICE in recent years as controversy has grown over President Trump’s immigration policies.
This week, federal authorities scrapped plans to put a center for unaccompanied minor children in Northern Virginia, after protests. In May, Fairfax County approved a legal fund for undocumented immigrants fighting deportation. Last year, the Fairfax County sheriff dropped an agreement with ICE to hold inmates suspected of being in the country illegally past the end of their sentence.
Luis Aguilar, the director of CASA in Virginia, applauded Roessler for quickly investigating the incident and publicly releasing details, but he said the relationship between immigrant communities and authorities remains fragile, potentially leading to fewer people coming forward to report crimes and serve as witnesses.
In Decatur police issued new guidelines that restricted cooperation with Immigration and Customs Enforcement last week. The policy, for example, included the passages “Officers shall not inquire into the immigration status of persons encountered during police operations” and “an individual may not be detained or arrested solely for a suspected violation of immigration law.”
The mayor of Decatur, however, disagreed with the new policies, or at least was miffed at the suggestion that Decatur was becoming a “sanctuary city.” He took to social media over the weekend to demand changes and went to work with the City Council to make them happen. A new set of policies were issued yesterday that rewrote the provisions of the policy.
For example, “Assisting ICE in enforcing civil immigration laws is not permitted unless approved by the Chief of Police,” was changed to, “In the event that ICE requests non-emergency assistance from DPD to further the enforcement of civil immigration laws DPD will make every effort to assist as it would with any federal or state agency seeking such assistance provided such request is approved by the Chief of Police and such assistance can be provided without undue hindrance of the provision of police services to the City at large.”
The passage that states an “Individual may not be detained or arrested solely for a suspected violation of immigration law” was expanded to read, “Individual may not be arrested solely for a suspected violation of immigration laws and will only be detained for immigration law violations if they are already in custody for a non-immigration charge and a detainer is requested by ICE. Such detainer may be requested by DPD whenever the suspect is in custody at the request of ICE but the detainer may only be valid for a period of up to 24 hours beyond the time the other charges were holding the suspect in custody.”
A section-by-section breakdown of the changes in the law is here.