Wednesday October 28th, 2020 7:03AM

US immigration agents find ways around 'sanctuary' policies

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

PHOENIX (AP) — Two years after New Mexico's largest county barred local law enforcement from cooperating with immigration authorities, its leaders learned that the policy was being subverted from within.

Staff members at the Bernalillo County jail in Albuquerque were still granting immigration authorities access to its database and, in some cases, tipping them off when a person of interest was being released.

"I was surprised and horrified," said Maggie Hart Stebbins, chairwoman of the Bernalillo County Commission. "Individual employees do not have the freedom to pick and choose what they want to observe."

The disclosure last month cast a spotlight on an often-overlooked way in which immigration officials around the U.S. may be getting around local "sanctuary" policies — through informal relationships with police and others willing to cooperate when they're not supposed to. Immigration activists say they have seen it places like Philadelphia, Chicago and several communities in California, which has a statewide sanctuary law.

On Wednesday, for example, the American Civil Liberties Union reported that emails show that a detective in Orange County, California, regularly looked up license plate information for an immigration officer.

"Often people underestimate the informal relationship between ICE and local law enforcement," said Sara Cullinane, director of the immigrant-rights organization Make the Road New Jersey. She said a major way to make sure immigrant-friendly ordinances are being obeyed is training officers about what they can and cannot do.

Over 100 local governments around the country have adopted a variety of sanctuary rules barring police and jails from cooperating with immigration authorities, often by refusing to hold people arrested on local charges past their release date at the request of immigration officers who intend to pick them up.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement says these types of policies have made the streets less safe. The restrictions have also led the agency in the past couple of years to find other ways to make arrests, such as by staking out courthouses for immigrants, a practice ICE had generally avoided.

In 2017, the governing commission in Bernalillo County, population 680,000, barred the use of county money, resources or personnel to enforce civil immigration laws. County employees are not allowed to investigate, question or apprehend people based on their immigration status.

Last month, Bernalillo County passed another resolution further restricting county workers from sharing any sort of information regarding immigration status. A day later, on Feb. 27, the jail administration notified county leaders that it learned, while discussing the latest resolution with jail staff, that some had still been working with ICE in an informal way.

Staff members let immigration officers walk beyond the public areas of the jail and use the county computers, where they had logins to access inmate information such as names, places of birth and addresses. On occasion, staff would call immigration officers to let them know when an inmate was being released.

The county now bars ICE from going anywhere past the public areas. Nobody has been disciplined so far, said jail spokeswoman Candace Hopkins.

Hopkins said jail workers tipped off ICE regarding about one person out of around 3,000 released each month. "Our records department was complying with those requests with rare occasion. Extremely rare is something that we want to emphasize," she said.

ICE said that accessing the jail database made the public safer by ensuring that criminals facing deportation weren't released back onto the streets in the U.S.

"When sanctuary-city policies inhibit ICE officers' ability to identify and take custody of criminal aliens in a controlled environment such as local jails, ICE is forced to dedicate its limited resources to track down fugitives and dangerous criminals upon release," said Corey Price, an official with the ICE field office in El Paso, Texas, which covers New Mexico. He said sanctuary policies are "misguided efforts" by "those who ultimately want to shield dangerous criminals from being deported."

In Chicago, police are barred from cooperating with immigration authorities in a number of ways, but ICE still had access to its gang database, advocates say. In 2017, the city settled with a man who sued after he was mistakenly placed on a gang database that ICE accessed and used to arrest him. Immigration officers seriously injured the man while arresting him at his home.

In Philadelphia, which since 2014 has prohibited its jails from holding detainees for ICE or notifying the agency of release dates, authorities even in high-level administrative posts were still informally working with the federal agency, according to advocates and an investigative report by The Philadelphia Inquirer . The newspaper documented about 10 occasions in which police notified ICE about immigrants they arrested.

Blanca Pacheco, co-director of the New Sanctuary Movement of Philadelphia, said that until last year, the city's probation officers, who shared an office building with ICE, were walking clients over directly to the federal agency to turn them in, in violation of the city's directive. Pacheco said the practice stopped when it came to light.

She said it went on largely because some people weren't trained on the policies. Training "is really key because one thing is to win the policy, and another is to train people. There are people that, because of racism, do it, but also there are officers who just don't know," Pacheco said.

In another case of behind-the-scenes cooperation, the ACLU reported that ICE uses a license-plate recognition database containing information submitted by some 80 police departments, some of them in sanctuary cities that are not supposed to be cooperating with ICE.

Jorge L. Baron, executive director of the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, an advocacy and legal services group in the Seattle area, said immigration agents have always found ways to get information on deportable criminals when it's not easily accessible.

"We have to continue working on ways that we can prevent information-sharing," Baron said.

  • Associated Categories: U.S. News, Associated Press (AP), AP National News, AP Online National News, Top U.S. News short headlines, Top General short headlines
© Copyright 2020 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
US immigration agents find ways around 'sanctuary' policies
Despite scores of "sanctuary" laws around the country to shield immigrants from deportation, federal authorities are still getting under-the-table cooperation from some local law enforcement agencies
1:43AM ( 11 minutes ago )
Colorado's 'bomb cyclone' storm barrels toward Midwest
National Guard troops were using specialized vehicles with tank-like treads to rescue stranded drivers in Colorado in the wake of a massive late-winter storm that is expected to unleash heavy rain and snow on the Midwest plains on Thursday
1:38AM ( 16 minutes ago )
Boeing's newest plane becomes its biggest headache
Boeing's newest version of its best-selling airliner ever has turned into its biggest headache
1:33AM ( 21 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
O'Rourke tells Texas TV station he's running for president
Democrat Beto O'Rourke has told a Texas TV station that he's running for president in 2020
12:10AM ( 1 hour ago )
Malaysia won't drop case against Vietnamese in Kim killing
Prosecutors say Malaysia's attorney general has ordered the murder case to proceed against a Vietnamese woman accused in the killing of the North Korean leader's half brother
12:03AM ( 1 hour ago )
Cardinal Pell gets 6 years imprisonment for sexual assault
The Vatican's former finance minister, Cardinal George Pell, has been sentenced to 6 years in prison for molesting two choirboys in an Australian cathedral after a Sunday Mass in the 1990s
11:49PM ( 2 hours ago )
AP National News
The Latest: EU official says 'no-deal' vote wont halt Brexit
The European Commission is warning Britain's Parliament that voting against Brexit taking effect without a withdrawal deal in place isn't enough and lawmakers must approve the deal, too
11:39PM ( 2 hours ago )
Senate GOP effort on Trump border wall seems to fall short
A late Republican effort to prevent President Donald Trump from an awkward Senate defeat over his declaration of a national emergency at the Mexican border seems to be collapsing
11:08PM ( 2 hours ago )
Musher's journey from feeding sled dogs to winning Iditarod
As a young boy with a passion for sled dog racing, Pete Kaiser started out feeding the animals for a competitor before going on to win the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race this year
10:42PM ( 3 hours ago )
AP Online National News
Report: Power lines sparked massive Southern California fire
Fire investigators say one of the largest fires in California history was sparked by Southern California Edison power lines that came into contact during high winds
9:00PM ( 4 hours ago )
Attorney: Brothers regret role in alleged Smollett scheme
The attorney for two brothers accused of helping stage an attack on "Empire" actor Jussie Smollett in downtown Chicago says the men regret their involvement
8:56PM ( 4 hours ago )
Experts doubt turbulence caused crash of cargo jet in Texas
Aviation experts say they doubt turbulence could have brought down a cargo jet that crashed into a Texas bay in February, speculating that human error or a massive malfunction are more likely culprits
6:47PM ( 7 hours ago )
Top U.S. News short headlines
Colorado's 'bomb cyclone' storm barrels toward Midwest
National Guard troops were using specialized vehicles with tank-like treads to rescue stranded drivers in Colorado in the wake of a massive late-winter storm that is expected to unleash heavy rain and snow on the Midwest plains on Thursday
1:38AM ( 16 minutes ago )
Boeing's newest plane becomes its biggest headache
Boeing's newest version of its best-selling airliner ever has turned into its biggest headache
1:33AM ( 21 minutes ago )
R. Kelly's sex videos have circulated nationwide for years
Sex videos like those that have been integral to the criminal cases against R. Kelly have been circulating across the nation for years
1:09AM ( 45 minutes ago )
Judge to be assigned to Jussie Smollett's case at hearing
A judge is expected to be assigned to Jussie Smollett's disorderly conduct case when the 'Empire' actor returns to court Thursday
12:42AM ( 1 hour ago )
Brazil wonders why after school shooters kill 8, themselves
A Sao Paulo suburb prepares to bury its dead and look for reasons why two masked former students armed with a hand gun, knives, axes and crossbows killed five teenagers and two adults at a school before killing themselves as police closed in
12:26AM ( 1 hour ago )