Can Trump bring local police back into the immigration enforcement effort?

posted at 8:51 am on January 30, 2017 by Jazz Shaw

There was one portion of President Trump’s new immigration orders which has received far less attention than the big ticket items which currently have the airports clogged up with “disruptors” and SAG Awards celebrities howling as they exit their limousines at the red carpet. It’s his order to revive a Clinton era program which deputizes, trains and authorizes state, local and municipal law enforcement to arrest illegal immigrants and turn them over to ICE. This highly successful program “fell out of favor” with the Obama administration, but under these new orders it may be getting a fresh infusion of resources. (ABC News)

To build his highly touted deportation force, President Donald Trump is reviving a long-standing program that deputizes local officers to enforce federal immigration law…

But the program could end up having a significant impact on immigration enforcement around the country, despite falling out of favor in recent years amid complaints that it promotes racial profiling.

More than 60 police and sheriff’s agencies had the special authority as of 2009, applying for it as the nation’s immigration debate was heating up. Since then, the number has been halved and the effort scaled back as federal agents ramped up other enforcement programs and amid complaints officers weren’t focusing on the goal of catching violent offenders and instead arrested immigrants for minor violations, like driving with broken tail lights.

This was a program born from a 1996 federal law which offered a chance for local law enforcement agencies to voluntarily take part in immigration enforcement. With appropriate training and funding they could actually check the status of suspects in the field and make arrests in addition to doing checks of the citizenship status of people in local jails. This sort of authority and effort goes considerably further than simply “informing” ICE when they happen to detect an illegal immigrant with an outstanding warrant in their custody. It brings the cops into the business of rounding up illegal aliens for deportation.

According to ABC’s research, ICE trained and certified more than 1,500 LEOs to fulfill this role just in the past decade. Unfortunately, the program was largely declawed by the Obama administration, with all arrest power agreements being phased out by 2013, though local agencies could still check the status of people in their jails. At this point there are barely 30 local agencies still taking part in the program.

We’re already seeing some of the early response from the sanctuary cities to this idea, with Charlie Beck, the Chief of Police in Los Angeles, declaring that he has no interest in such enforcement activity. (LA Times)

“That is not our job, nor will I make it our job,” Beck said in November, drawing a line he’s still defending…

Beck, a career cop who is now 63, said he didn’t see it this way when he joined the force. But he evolved as he better understood practical realities and the essence of Los Angeles, which implemented Special Order 40 in 1979 to prevent police from doing the federal work of immigration control.

“In the mid-1990s, when the state cracked down [on] illegal immigration, all we did was drive people underground,” said Beck.

Beck has a long history of pushing back against enforcement of the law when it comes to illegal immigrants. In 2011 he made headlines when he endorsed driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants and a change in police policy which largely curtailed the impounding of cars belonging to illegal aliens. How popular was his stance at that time? His own police officers sued him over it.

I have a feeling that Los Angeles may be somewhat more the exception than the rule. Cops frequently express frustration at having their hands tied by liberal policies which hinder their efforts to actually enforce the law. With new leadership at the federal level expressing more support for police officers, this policy might not be as unpopular as some liberals are anticipating.


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