Dozens of police chiefs and sheriffs from across the U.S. expressed their discomfort with their new role as President Donald Trump’s deportation force.
A joint letter signed by 61 current and former law enforcement officials objected to the Trump administration’s push to enlist local police in “new and sometimes problematic tasks” in assisting federal immigration agencies, reported The Guardian.
“Immigration enforcement is, first and foremost, a federal responsibility,” wrote the Law Enforcement Immigration Task Force. “We believe we can best serve our communities by leaving the enforcement of immigration laws to the federal government.”
The officials expressed concern that enforcing federal immigration laws would “harm locally-based, community-oriented policing.”
The letter does not mention the president by name and its release was timed to a hearing Tuesday of the U.S. Senate committee on homeland security and governmental affairs on “the effects of border insecurity and lax immigration enforcement on American communities.”
Many of the letter’s signatories come from states won by Trump in November’s election, including Alabama, Arizona, Florida, South Carolina and Texas.
Trump signed an executive order Jan. 25 enlisting state and local law enforcement in what appears to be a large-scale deportation force.
Chief Art Acevedo, of Houston police, described Trump’s order as “political theater” that would pull officers away from preventing and investigating violent crime to target day laborers potentially violating immigration laws.
“If these type of ill-advised, poorly thought-out public policies were to go through — where they try to take away my ability to control the workforce, to control the priorities of my workforce — there are going to be unintended consequences and those unintended consequences are going to result in additional crime,” said Acevedo, who signed the letter.
The order steps up two controversial programs — Secure Communities, which coordinates sharing of biometric data between local jails and ICE officials, and 287(g), which deputizes local police as immigration enforcement officers and has been linked to racial profiling in Latino communities.
Not all law enforcement officials object to Trump’s new expectations.
Sheriff P.J. Tanner, of Beaumont County, Texas, asked the Department Homeland Security for permission to revive his county’s controversial 287(g) unit to remove “the worst of the worst.”
Beaufort County Sheriff P.J. Tanner has asked the Department Homeland Security for permission to revive a unit that uses specially trained county deputies to enforce federal immigration laws, which could include investigation, apprehension or detention of immigrants who are in the United States illegally.
“I think he’s going to make it abundantly clear that we are looking for the gang bangers, the drug dealers and those that are committing violent crimes,” Tanner said.
He waved away concerns that the unit would prove too costly or undermine relations with the county’s immigrant community.
“The only thing that affects the relationship with any community is fake news,” Tanner said. “And I think the president has made that extremely clear in the conversations he’s had recently.”