The U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement has arrested 83 people across Wisconsin since September 2018. According to the limited data provided by ICE, at least 39 of the individuals arrested in the state had no documented criminal history.

President Trump has claimed that ICE has only been deporting dangerous gang members, drug dealers, and human traffickers. But according to its own records, ICE is deporting members of Wisconsin communities with minor offenses or no criminal history.

The Federal agency has failed to properly notify local law enforcement of ICE operations prior to conducting raids. It has also routinely ignored requests for information from Wisconsin lawmakers, and has made public threats against elected officials like Milwaukee County Sheriff Earnell Lucas, who refused to share information or hand people over in absence of a judge’s warrant.

In response to the questionable procedures by ICE, the agency’s detrimental effect on the Milwaukee community, and the specific targeting of Sheriff Lucas for the policy he was elected to enforce, Congresswoman Gwen Moore wrote to the agency’s Deputy Director outlining her concerns.

Dear Deputy Director Vitiello,

I am writing to express my deep concerns about the response of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials to the recent laudable decision by the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s office regarding changes to its policy on its voluntary communications with ICE. I remind you that this new policy fully complies with federal law and is intended to help ensure the Sheriff’s office can provide the highest level of service to and restore trust with the community it serves.

As you know, in compliance with federal law, the Milwaukee County Sheriff has enacted a new policy ensuring that, absent a valid judicial warrant, it will not share other information with ICE regarding persons detained in the Milwaukee County Jail. The county will no longer voluntarily turn over information unless an individual is the subject of a warrant from a criminal court, limiting the needless sharing of information regarding other residents.

ICE should have applauded this move that would improve community trust with local law enforcement officials but also continue to allow sharing for individuals who I believe ICE has deemed the highest priority.

Unfortunately, the heavy handed response by ICE, as reported by the local media, was very troubling, including its illusion to conducting even more harmful and unnecessary immigration raids in our community that would only instill fear in law abiding residents and undermine local law enforcement. As reported in local media, ICE stated that, “When law enforcement agencies fail to honor immigration detainers and release serious criminal offenders onto the streets, it undermines ICE’s ability to protect public safety and carry out its mission …. ICE has no choice but to continue to conduct at-large arrests in local neighborhoods and at work sites, which will inevitably result in additional collateral arrests, instead of focusing on arrests at jails and prisons where transfers are safer for ICE officers and the community.”

It is unfortunate that ICE views these changes in this manner rather than seeing these changes as a pledge by a local law enforcement agency to respond to the needs of its community while still voluntarily sharing information with ICE. And ICE does have other options other than more harmful raids.

And let’s be clear about a key point omitted from this statement: local law enforcement are not federal immigration enforcement officers and have no legal obligation to assist DHS with federal immigration enforcement actions. Their top priority is to protect their community which this sensible policy revision reaffirms. To the extent that localities chose to work with ICE as they determine best, ICE should refrain from reckless raids which even your statement acknowledges aren’t intended to identify and address “serious criminals” but merely to inflict fear and terror in local immigrant communities.

That statement also fails to recognize that under federal immigration law and a number of court decisions, state and local jurisdictions in fact have no obligation to honor ICE’s immigration detainer requests. In fact, localities that do so can be held liable for violating the constitutional rights of those they end up holding beyond the end of any legally imposed sentence at the request of ICE.

The statement also fails to recognize that any failure of ICE to carry out its missions is largely the result of ICE’s own failed policies which have not only inflicted needless fear in communities that generate resentment but increase legal and other liabilities for the state and local authorities who you partner with or are attempting to partner with. Statements like these only undermine ICE’s credibility as a partner for state and local law enforcement agencies that are concerned foremost with the safety of their communities.

I hope you agree that local officials are best positioned to design their law enforcement policies in a way that does not undermine their relationship with their own residents limits their liabilities to legal challenges and that enables enforcement of law in a manner that is not based on racial profiling or other discriminatory practices. And nothing in federal law gives ICE the ability to commandeer state and local resources or require state and local law enforcement to take actions that violate the Constitution.

In closing, I want to reiterate, because it may have been lost on ICE officials, that even after the changes which I believe are long overdue and needed, Milwaukee County Sheriff will still provide voluntary assistance to ICE in a way that best meets both goals of protecting the community while continuing to help ICE identify its priority groups of individuals.

We must support moves that remove or reduce impediments to trust building between law and enforcement and their communities which will only make communities safer.


Gwen Moore, Member of Congress