By Emily Lin

Today, the Department of Homeland Security published its first list of 118 cities who refused to detain undocumented immigrants. Know that we the people can support our law enforcement agencies stand up to Trump. Read Emily’s experience with her county sheriff and figure out how you can support your sanctuary cities. 

Last week, I heard one of our county sheriffs speak at a local Democratic Party meeting. As it turns out, sheriffs and local police chiefs can play a big role in fighting federal policies that are negatively impacting immigrants and refugees. Here are two things you can ask your local law enforcement leadership to do to help the resistance:

SanctuaryCities-900x645Do not participate in the 287(g) program.

The 287(g) program essentially cross-authorizes state or local police officers to act as immigration officers. That’s a bad idea, and it doesn’t work.

So why would local police consider participating in the 287(g) program? As you might know, two separate Executive Orders (EOs) signed on January 25, 2017 set a goal of hiring 5,000 additional Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) agents and 10,000 new Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents. Both of these EOs reference the 287(g) program as a means of reaching these staffing goals, stating that the Secretary of Homeland Security, currently John Kelly, “shall immediately take appropriate action to engage with the Governors of the States, as well as local officials, for the purpose of preparing to enter into agreements under section 287(g) of the INA (8 U.S.C. 1357(g)).”

Now, of course, we want our local police not to participate in this program because of the negative direct effects on immigrants, as well as the indirect effects on our democratic values. But there are also self-interested reasons for local police not to participate. First, cross-acting as immigration enforcement makes doing their primary job – peace-keeping and supporting civil society – impossible. As our local sheriff said,

I can’t do my job if people won’t call 911 because they’re afraid of being deported.

In addition, participating in the program is expensive, nets few violent criminals, results in racial profiling, and is under supported by the Feds, as outlined in this research brief from the American Immigration Council.

Do not allow ICE agents to identify themselves as local police.

ICE agents wear uniforms that as both “ICE” and “police.” By identifying themselves as police when they approach the private homes of people they are targeting, the agents can potentially deceive the people they are targeting into letting them in without a warrant. According to our local sheriff, however, ICE agents are only allowed to verbally identify themselves as “police” if the local police authorities say that they can. At least one major city, Los Angeles, has directly told ICE to stop identifying themselves as “police” for this reason.

One question raised at the meeting this week was, “What repercussions might you face for not ‘playing along’ with ICE?” The sheriff acknowledged that his department receives about $5M in federal grants each year that could be at risk. However, in the context of his overall $175M annual budget, he said that it was a small price to pay for doing the right thing.

One final note – while both sheriffs and police chiefs have the authority to direct their public safety agencies and departments in this way, we as citizens have particularly good leverage over sheriffs, as they tend to be elected officials. Joe Arpaio, former Sheriff of Maricopa County in Arizona, was infamous for his abuse of power, racially-biased policies, and civil rights violations. And after 24 years in office, it was his mis-use of the 287(g) program that finally got him fired by the voters of Maricopa this past November.

Today, find out the status of your city. Call your sheriff. And if he or she doesn’t listen – vote.