ACLU warns Wisconsin Sheriffs about Trump attempts to pull local police into immigration enforcement

Story Date: 
Jul 13, 2017

The American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin has filed open records requests to discover the extent to which the 72 sheriff’s departments in Wisconsin are working with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Given clear indications that the Trump Administration seeks to encourage, if not compel, local jurisdictions to directly support federal immigration enforcement--as well as similar efforts by the Wisconsin Legislature--the ACLU of Wisconsin is writing to the sheriff in each Wisconsin county to inform them of their potential risks and legal liability associated with involvement in federal immigration enforcement.

“President Trump’s attempt to draft local law enforcement agencies into his immigration force is a terrible idea. It makes everyone less safe, by making immigrants fear any contact with the police, even if they want to report an accident or crime,” said Chris Ott, executive director of the ACLU of Wisconsin. “We have written these letters to make sure that sheriffs across the state understand that getting involved with immigration enforcement can expose them to lawsuits.”

In Milwaukee County, the ACLU of Wisconsin is also asking Sheriff David Clarke to disclose his interactions with federal immigration officials concerning possible participation in the 287(g) program, which bestows authority on local deputies to act as immigration enforcers. Milwaukee County recently disclosed an estimated cost of close to $1 million as a result of Sheriff Clarke’s detention of immigrants on requests from ICE.

Because local law enforcement is often not very transparent regarding when and how they cooperate with ICE, the ACLU of Wisconsin also included an open records request with its letters asking local sheriffs to provide their policies for working with immigration authorities and to report how many immigrants were detained in county jails and for how long.

A sample request can be found below.

Involving local law enforcement in immigration enforcement has proven counter-productive for community safety across the country. In cities such as Houston and Los Angeles, for example, police estimate that greater fear of deportation has driven double-digit declines in the reporting by Latino residents of crimes.

Related Key Issue: 
Document: