Police chiefs from different parts of the United States on Thursday voiced their concerns about President Donald Trump’s executive order to “strip” federal grant money from sanctuary states and cities that harbor undocumented immigrants.
Law enforcement authorities said cutting funding to “force” local policies to change is “troubling” and the notion that police does not cooperate with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is wrong.
“We are concerned about this threat of losing funds,” said Major Cities Chiefs Association President and Montgomery County, Maryland, Police Chief J. Thomas Manger.
Manger is the police chief of a populous area adjacent to Washington, D.C., and said “one size does not fit all” with immigration policies among 18,000 police departments in the country.
“And it’s an unfunded mandate, quite frankly. Immigration law is best enforced by federal government and we are happy to help and cooperate [with ICE] and whatever manner they need our help,” Marshalltown Police Chief Mike Tupper in Iowa added.
Tupper said his department does not have the financial resources or personnel to take on this additional tasks.
Cutting police funds?
Sanctuary cities limit help to federal authorities who may be looking to arrest and deport undocumented immigrants. Thirty-nine U.S. cities and 364 counties nationwide have established themselves as sanctuary places; others prefer the term welcoming cities.
Federal grants are U.S. economic aid that come from general revenue and are used to pay for various services, such as community centers, health clinics and housing for low-income people.
The cities individually could lose millions of dollars in federal aid. Many of the cities, including some of the biggest in the country, are located in states that Trump won in the November election.
For police departments that could mean funds cut from programs that support interstate background checks for those who plan to purchase guns, training in active shooting situations, and programs to combat drug trafficking and abuse.
“We are not trying to protect criminals. We are not trying to keep violent offenders that shouldn’t be here in the community. We want those people to be held accountable. …But it’s their [ICE] responsibility and it’s their primary responsibility,” Tupper said.
Both police officials said they work with ICE following the Priority Enforcement Program, which requires that departments to submit the fingerprints of an undocumented immigrant, who has committed an aggravated felony, to the FBI for criminal history and warrant checks. The same biometric data is then sent ICE to determine whether the individual is a priority for removal, consistent with enforcement priorities.
Tupper said the Marshalltown Police department serves a smaller population–about 30,000 people with 30 to 45 percent of its residents identifying themselves as immigrants.
“I think sometimes people assume that because we have a large immigrant population that everybody here is undocumented; that’s not the case,” he said.
“But even the folks that are here with documentation, lawfully, [said] they are very concerned with the direction we are heading and also fear they’re going to be caught up in enforcement efforts,” Tupper said.
Working with ICE
In contrast, the sheriff of Frederick County, a region in the northern part of Maryland, supports an immigration enforcement policy that allows local policing to act or working in association with ICE.
Sheriff Chuck Jenkins said the announced executive order by Trump was “the right way to go.”
For the past eight years, the county has followed the 287G program, that trains and authorizes designated police officers to act as immigration officials. In Frederick County, they do so only in detention centers and not on the streets.
“And I believe it’s been very effective for Frederick County,” Jenkins said.
Jenkins said in Frederick County police works strictly with ICE priorities and that “won’t change.”
“I can tell you this: we have never had a complaint of profiling, discrimination, wrongful action by a police officer… I think it can be done the right way,” he added.