Congressmen Jeff Denham said local and state agencies should cooperate with ICE to protect immigrants and Americans. He is wrong.
Rep. Denham and some local GOP colleagues were part of an immigration panel along with Congregations Building Community executive director Homero Mejia and Gustine High School senior class president Alexis Angulo on April 19. The most shocking claim discussed by the panel was Denham’s criticism of California’s sanctuary status, which can limit the cooperation of local city and countyagencies, such as police and probation, with federal immigration officials.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement is one federal agency that investigates, detains, prosecutes and deports people in America without documents. ICE’s primary focus is on immigrant communities. In Stanislaus County, those communities are made up of Latinos, Middle Easterners and East Asians.
Denham stressed that ICE needs unfettered cooperation from local and state law enforcement to keep immigrants from being wrongfully or unconstitutionally detained, prosecuted and deported. But any immigrant who is not a citizen can be a priority for deportation. So saying immigrant communities would be safer if ICE and other law enforcement work together is wrong.
How our society treats immigrants define who we are as Americans. Cooperating with a deportation machine would be a threat to America’s core principles of due process and equal protection.
Cooperation with ICE leads to the criminalization of immigrant communities through racial profiling and punitive arrests. Instead of working together as a community, such practices risk separating families, long detentions without a hearing, and displacement of vulnerable people to far-away locations.
Immigrants are critical to the economy; they add to economic demand, and contribute state and local tax revenues.
Denham’s claim presupposes that ICE does not have access to inmates for immigration purposes, cannot review inmate logs or search jail computers for addresses and locations of undocumented immigrants. But federal officials already use local and state agencies as force multipliers in all deportations nationwide, including California.
From 2009 to 2015, California collaborated with ICE on the Secure Communities program in which local and state enforcement officials detained and transferred people to ICE. Thirty percent of all the deportations nationwide came from California in a program that cost taxpayers $65 million annually.
Among those deported were many who shouldn’t have been.
Instead of asking for help from local law enforcement, Denham should ensure that no state or local resources will be used to investigate, detain, report or arrest persons for immigration purposes, and no police officer should be deputized as a federal immigration agent. He should also work to ensure no state or local law enforcement agency will transfer anyone to ICE for deportation or make them available to ICE for interviews in jail. Local and state databases should not be made available to anyone for immigration enforcement purposes.
Schools, health facilities and courthouses should remain safe and accessible to all residents, regardless of immigration status.
Denham said immigration should be addressed “together” from a “community perspective.” But the immigration panel’s discussion was damage control from the negativity expressed at the town hall-style meeting he attended earlier in the week in Denair.
Instead of involving immigrants, his panel’s goal was to tokenize them. Meija and Angulo’s recommendations to restrict local law enforcement’s cooperation with ICE and expand services to those brought here as children were ignored.
The only notice of this meeting was an article in The Modesto Bee that appeared less than 24 hours before the event. And having an event on a Wednesday morning is not exactly convenient time for the people most affected since most of them are working.
If Rep. Denham wants to discuss immigration reform, he should have allowed those attending to ask questions directly, and not only after being screened by staffers.
Samuel Molina is the California Director of Mi Familia Vota based in Fresno. A recent law school graduate, Naramsen Goriel works with Indivisible Stanislaus and volunteers for the American Civil Liberties Union.