This week a group of 63 law enforcement leaders from all over the nation, including five from California, and many from states President Donald Trump won last November, sent a letter to senators explaining why involving local police and sheriff’s departments in immigration enforcement is damaging to public safety and to important police and community relationships.
The list of current and former local police chiefs, sheriffs, and other high ranking law enforcement officers urge what they call a constructive immigration enforcement approach that “prioritizes criminals and not peaceful residents,” an approach the writers say is vital to preserving community safety.
In addition, the same group released a policy paper this week—“A Path to Public Safety: The Legal Questions around Immigration Detainers,”—which addresses legal limitations on immigration detainers that steer cities and counties away from holding people for an extended period of time voluntarily.
The joint letter to Congress doesn’t name the president directly, but the group of signatories talk with high concern about the deleterious effect of the president’s new push to have local law enforcement involved in arresting undocumented residents for deportment.
“The success of our community policing efforts depends heavily on providing all of our residents access, inclusivity and trust-based relationships with the men and women who are charged to serve and protect our community,” said Randy Gaber, Assistant Chief of Police of the Madison Police Department in Wisconsin. “When this trust is eroded by the fear of detainment and deportation for status and low-level offenses, the safety and security of our community is at risk.”
Mark Prosser, Public Safety Director of Storm Lake, Iowa, expressed similar worry. “In recent weeks, I’ve constantly had to address the fear that is spreading through our immigrant population inclusive of documented, refugee and undocumented community members related to proposed policies, rumors and safety concerns for themselves, their families and friends,” said Prosser. “This climate has already begun to erode the relationships and community building that our department has worked on in an attempt to enhance and perfect our community policing processes.”
The letter also comments on the potentially destructive effect of the administration’s threats to withdraw funding from those jurisdictions that don’t agree to become de facto arms of ICE.
“Threatening the removal of valuable grant funding from jurisdictions that choose not to spend limited resources enforcing federal immigration law is extremely problematic,” write the chiefs and sheriffs. “Removing these funds that contribute to the health and well-being of communities across the nation would not make our communities safer and would not fix any part of our broken immigration system.”
The letter was released to coincide with a hearing by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on border policies and interior enforcement.
Meanwhile, in Sacramento, California lawmakers are moving to block immigration agents from being able to access student data. KPCC’s Adolfo Guzman Lopez has the story.