President's Policing Task Force Targets Immigration Enforcement

By Jessica M. Vaughan on May 21, 2015

The president's Task Force on 21st Century Policing, which was formed in the wake of Ferguson and other controversial policing events last year (none of which had anything to do with immigration), unfortunately has become another opportunity for anti-immigration enforcement activists to fabricate "mainstream" support for the continued crippling of DHS enforcement agencies by the Obama administration.

The task force was formed, supposedly, "to identify the best means to provide an effective partnership between law enforcement and local communities that reduces crime and increases trust." It held listening sessions and took testimony from a fairly broad spectrum of experts, scholars, government officials, law enforcement leaders, non-governmental organizations, and advocates. The final report was released on Monday.

The task force came up with several pages of recommendations and action items covering many facets of law enforcement and policing. These included two action items on immigration enforcement, under the "Building Trust and Legitimacy" pillar of issues:

1.9.1 Action Item: Decouple federal immigration enforcement from routine local policing for civil enforcement and nonserious crime.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security should terminate the use of the state and local criminal justice system, including through detention, notification, and transfer request, to enforce civil immigration laws against civil and nonserious criminal offenders.


1.9.3 Action Item: The U.S. Department of Justice should not include civil immigration information in the FBI's National Crime Information Center database.

These recommendations are both amateur and absurd. First of all, the "civil immigration information" dump into the FBI's NCIC databases was stopped years ago, so there is nothing to act on. According to the task force minutes, they were informed of this fact by the FBI, but stuck with the recommendation anyway, stating that they want to verify what the FBI told them (hmm, some trust issues there?).

The "decoupling" recommendation is just plain ridiculous on many levels. For one thing, I'd like to see the list of what the task force considers to be "nonserious" crimes, and then defend that definition to a victim of such a crime. But more importantly, how does it help reduce crime and increase trust when DHS enforcement agencies are prohibited from communicating with state and local criminal justice agencies? The result of that scenario is that deportable criminals get to stay here and keep committing crimes and the public can't trust law enforcement agencies to enforce laws that help keep them safe.

I was curious: What facts did the task force consider to arrive at this recommendation? Was there a groundswell of expert opinion urging local law enforcement agencies to shun ICE and let "nonserious" deportable criminal aliens stay? What did the dozens of law enforcement leaders they consulted have to say about it?

So I took a look at the statements of the approximately 90 experts and activists who provided comments and recommendations under the "Building Trust and Legitimacy" pillar at a listening session and a teleconference, both held in January.

It turns out that only one person, out of dozens of prominent police chiefs, sheriffs, experts, and activists even mentioned the matter of ICE-local communication. It was a representative of Voto Latino. Never heard of them? Me neither. Voto Latino appears to be either an activist group (or perhaps a direct mail outfit masquerading as an activist group) that as of this writing does not have a functioning website, so you can't check out their work or their credentials. The task force Action Item 1.9.1 appears to have been lifted directly from the Voto Latino's top recommendation in its statement: "Decouple policing from immigration enforcement."

No other experts testifying saw fit to even raise the topic, much less suggest "decoupling" or any immigration-related action item to improve community trust of police; not the International Association of Chiefs of Police, NAACP, Police Foundation, National Association of Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement, National Sheriffs Association, National Council of Churches of Christ, Fraternal Order of Police, Gathering for Justice, or the National Latino Police Association. Even the ACLU didn't think it was important or appropriate enough to suggest.

But now that the president's task force has legitimized this marginal ethnic activist group's crazy idea, we can expect that the recommendation will become a convenient substitute for facts and the consensus of experts wherever a debate over immigration enforcement occurs.

For example, just last week the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted to end the county sheriff's 287(g) partnership with ICE. At the same time, they approved a proposal to evaluate the implementation of the president's new Priority Enforcement Program (PEP), which is a greatly watered-down version of the successful Secure Communities program after 90 days. We can expect the Los Angeles open borders groups who are already maligning the brand-new PEP to invoke the task force's report when in 90 days they push the supervisors to force the Los Angeles County Sheriff to withdraw all cooperation with ICE.

We can also expect the president to use the task force's report to rationalize even further dismantling of immigration enforcement and cooperation between federal and local agencies.

One can't help but wonder, if this task force came up with such a howler on immigration enforcement, what else did they get completely wrong?

For more on the bogus arguments that immigration interferes with community policing, see this fact sheet.