MILWAUKEE  — In a joint letter sent today to Department of Homeland Security Secretary nominee Alejando Mayorkas, local civil rights, faith, and community  advocacy groups urged him to prioritize ending Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) collaboration programs and practices that have entangled Wisconsin agencies in federal immigration enforcement, including the 287(g) program, Secure Communities, and ICE detainers.

As the letter states, “ICE collaboration programs make people experiencing domestic violence, sexual abuse and human trafficking far less likely to seek urgently needed police protection and local services, out of fear of deportation and separation from their children. In response to Milwaukee County’s 2018 decision not to pursue an 287(g) agreement with ICE, Jasmine Gonzalez, a spokeswoman for the Wisconsin immigrant rights organization Voces de la Frontera, stated ‘[f]olks were terrified to report crimes when they needed help from law enforcement.’ Milwaukee County’s decision, in the view of Gonzalez, was a step towards rebuilding a trusting relationship between the County Sheriff’s Office and Milwaukee’s immigrant communities.

“Sheriffs, police chiefs and prosecutors are some of the leading critics of these programs because they make people less likely to seek police protection, report crimes and serve as witnesses. As Dane County Sheriff Dave Mahoney stated, the 287(g) program can often make a community less safe ‘[t]he real danger to that is you empower the predators who are preying on the non-documented who fear coming forward to law enforcement.’ Sheriff Mahoney continued that when ‘[y]ou empower the oppressors, you empower the predator, and then it becomes less safe for U.S. citizens because they become victims.’” 

“After four years of the Trump administration’s fear-mongering against immigrants, the Biden administration has an opportunity to right the record and make us all safer. Ending 287(g) agreements is good for our communities and our economies. Resources and taxpayer dollars shouldn’t be wasted on local law enforcement being tapped to do the bidding of ICE,” according to Tomás Clasen, community engagement manager of the ACLU of Wisconsin. 

Signatories of the letter included: ACLU of Wisconsin, Black Leaders Organizing for Communities (BLOC), Brown Berets, DSA, First Unitarian Society - Madison - Justice Ministry, Hanan Refugees Relief Group, Hmong American Women’s Association, Inc., Kids Forward, League of United Latin American Citizens - WI, League of Women Voters of Wisconsin, Lutheran Office for Public Policy in Wisconsin, Milwaukee Action Intersection, Milwaukee County Human Rights Commission, Milwaukee Turners, Mothers for Justice United, National Association of Social Workers, Wisconsin Chapter, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) - Milwaukee Branch, National Lawyers’ Guild Madison Chapter, National Lawyers’ Guild Milwaukee Chapter, RidRacism Milwaukee, Task Force on Criminal Justice Reform, Voces de la Frontera, Wisconsin Faith Voices for Justice, Wisconsin Justice Initiative, Wisconsin Network for Peace and Justice, and WISDOM.