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In February, President Trump issued an executive order expanding categories for deporting people who are in the U.S. illegally.
Soon after, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement – or ICE – picked up hundreds of people in various U.S. cities. One of them was a Dreamer who was reapplying for DACA - deferred action for childhood arrivals- status. She was arrested just after she held a press conference.
Another was a woman in Texas, who was in court getting a protective order from an abusive ex-boyfriend. ICE showed up at the courthouse, tipped off by someone who knew she would be there. Her attorney believes it was the boyfriend.
And Reuters reported last week that the Trump administration is considering separating mothers and children at the border.
Meanwhile, the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department has an agreement with ICE to report people who end up in the Clark County Detention Center and are foreign born. It is one of the few metropolitan police departments in the country that is part of the 287G program.
The agreement was signed in 2008, but since then the Trump Administration’s executive order expanding who will be picked up and put in line for deportation has come out.
Richard Suey is the deputy chief of Metro’s Detention Services Division.
He said the department’s priorities are helping ICE find the “worst of the worst,” people who have committed violent crimes or people who are victimizing the community.
Suey also said the department doesn’t have the staffing or funding to fully carry out the president’s expanded directive.
But, Michael Kagan, a law professor at UNLV’s Boyd School of Law and the director of the immigration clinic at the law school, said the agreement puts Metro in a tough spot.
“I haven’t heard that they want to follow really what is laid out in the new DHS memos or the executive orders but the sheriff has his signature on an agreement that says that’s what he’ll do,” Kagan said.
He said that complicates the message and makes it difficult for the police to reassure the community that nothing is going to happen when the sheriff’s name is on a legal document stating that he will do what the Department of Homeland Security wants.
Kagan pointed to cases in Denver where people who were supposed to testify in domestic violence cases refused to go to court for fear they would be arrested. The city attorney had to drop four cases because the victims wouldn’t testify.
Amy Rose with the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada echoed Kagan’s concerns. She applauded Metro’s efforts to try to focus strictly on the worst of the worst, but said that is not ICE’s emphasis anymore.
“They can’t make assurances for how ICE will act and regardless of what they’re telling us here today,” she said, “Any information that they give to ICE or any cooperation that they have with ICE, they can’t assure us and they can’t assure the community that ICE won’t start picking up someone who was a victim of domestic violence. They can’t assure us that ICE isn’t going to deport someone that just has a traffic ticket.”
Suey said Metro could back out of the agreement anytime it likes, but he defended the effort.
“I think it is a very effective tool for us,” Suey said, “What we’re focusing on is criminal illegal aliens people who are victimizing our community. If they’re not citizens of the country, we want to get them out of our community whether we send them to jail or to prison or back to where they came from. That is our focus.”
However, for Suey expanding an effort to find undocumented people and turn them over to ICE is not a priority. His priority is on making sure the detention center is fully staffed and running well.
Deputy Chief Richard Suey, Metro’s Detention Services Division; Amy Rose, Legal Director, ACLU of Nevada; Mike Kagan, professor and director of the immigration clinic at Boyd Law School