Reverse David Clarke’s Anti-Immigrant Legacy

Story Date: 
Oct 27, 2017

Op-Ed by ACLU Attorney Tim Muth

Former Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke made no secret of his desire to lend support to President Trump’s deportation force.    One part of his mission was his request for his department to participate in an Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) program known as the 287(g) program.   Under this program, deputy sheriffs will get authority to act as federal immigration law enforcers within the Milwaukee County Jail.

Clarke proudly tweeted a photo of the application last March when he applied to ICE to participate in the 287(g) program.   In doing so, Clarke was flatly ignoring the Milwaukee County Board which passed a resolution opposing participation in the 287(g) program.  

ICE has not yet approved Milwaukee County’s application.   Now that Sheriff Clarke has ridden off into the sunset, acting Milwaukee County Sheriff Richard Schmidt has the opportunity to do the right thing and pull the application before ICE acts on it in the coming weeks.  

Turning local county sheriff deputies into federal immigration enforcers is a terrible idea. If the Sheriff and his deputies are seen as working hand in glove with ICE, immigrants in our community will be afraid to report crimes, they will be afraid to go to the courthouse where the Sheriff provides security, and they will be forced to retreat into the shadows where they will be more subject to crime and abuse.  Our county will be less safe, not more.

Equally troubling, in jurisdictions across the country where 287(g) agreements are in existence, there has been an increase in racial profiling and unreasonable stops and arrests of Hispanic members of the community.

Turning Milwaukee County deputies into ICE enforcement agents will cost taxpayers money by giving them federal tasks for which the county will not be fully reimbursed.    Deputies in the Milwaukee County jail would spend time quizzing and verifying immigration status, rather than helping with the very real problems in that jail.

It is possible to reverse course very quickly on some of this unfortunate legacy of David Clarke.   We hope acting Sheriff Schmidt acts quickly to withdraw the application.

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