Wisconsin Supreme Court overturned rulings by a Circuit Court judge and a unanimous Appeals Court about public access to local immigrant deportation information.
The 4-2 decision from the court’s conservative majority on February 24 reverses lower-court decisions that ordered Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke to disclose the information under the state’s open records law, following a request from the immigrant advocacy group Voces de la Frontera. The ruling allows the sheriff to withhold information about detentions at his jail for federal authorities.
“It is time for this pro-illegal immigration group to embrace the rule of law in this country as it relates to immigration. Criminal illegal aliens make Milwaukee County a dangerous place to live, work and play. I am committed to protecting the law-abiding citizens of Milwaukee County and will always put their interests first,” said Sheriff Clarke in his statement on social media.
The Milwaukee sheriff does not have to release information on people at his jail suspected of being in the country illegally because the federal government prohibits it, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled. Sheriff Clarke has pledged to follow President Donald Trump’s directive to crack down on illegal immigration and expand the number of people prioritized for deportation.
“This decision represents the worst kind of judicial activism, an activism that responds to the plight of Wisconsin’s immigrant community with an ice-cold heart while empowering a renegade sheriff bent on mass deportations with the secrecy he wants to act on that objective,” said Peter Earle, Attorney for Voces de la Frontera. “By applying an obscure federal regulation designed to provide federal immigration authorities with the ability to secretly round up terror suspects in the wake of the horrible attack of 9-11, the Wisconsin Supreme Court impugns the dignity hard working immigrants to our state, at the same time seriously damaging Wisconsin’s hallowed tradition of open government.”
Milwaukee-based Voces de La Frontera filed the request in February 2015, asking for records identifying who the sheriff had held at the request of immigration authorities for the prior two months. The group said it wanted to know who the sheriff was detaining and whether they had a criminal record to meet the narrower guidelines former President Barack Obama previously set for deportation.
“This decision paves the way for secret deportations, cloaking the criminal and immigration system in secrecy at a time when a fascist element within the Republican Party aims to carry out cruel mass deportations, regardless of people’s record or ties to family or community,” said Christine Neumann-Ortiz, Executive Director of Voces de la Frontera. “According to today’s decision, if Clarke’s deputies pull over a mother for a broken tail light and detain her for Immigration, the public has no right know. Her children have no right to know.”
“Clarke is exactly the kind of official that public records laws are intended to hold accountable. He is currently under investigation for deaths in his jail and for abusing his authority to harass and detain someone for looking at him the wrong way. While we will explore an appeal, as tens of thousands of people showed in last week’s Day without Latinos, Immigrants and Refugees general strike, the power to protect the public good resides in the actions of ordinary people of all backgrounds. Our struggle against Clarke and Trump is only just beginning. On May 1st, we will join immigrant workers around the country and world in a general strike to demand Trump rescind his executive orders on immigration, which Clarke is only too eager to enforce. Clarke should resign because he is unfit for the position he holds and is a threat to public safety.”