The Department of Homeland Security and its Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have gotten off to a horrible start in doing its job. Basically, ICE agents have been identifying themselves as “police” when they show up at a person’s home or elsewhere to make an arrest.
This is only driving a deeper wedge between the immigrant community and local police officers who will have a more difficult time gaining the trust in getting cooperation from eyewitnesses and victims to crimes.
Photographs and video of ICE officers dressed in uniforms with the words “POLICE ICE” make it clear that the practice has started in immigration roundups.
This practice is misleading and needs to stop.
Los Ángeles officials – and at least one Congressmember – want ICE to stop the practice.
“Especially in these turbulent and uncertain times, we urge that ICE agents operating in Los Ángeles immediately stop representing that they are ‘police’ officers,” wrote Los Ángeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, City Attorney Mike Feuer and City Council President Herb Wesson in a Feb. 23 letter to ICE.
Their argument, which we agree is correct, is that the ICE practice will corrode years of police efforts to build trust in the immigrant communities. Crime victims and witnesses will be less likely to cooperate with police.
That is why local law enforcement (other than county jails that permit federal immigration agents to check their log of prisoners for people to deport) no longer enforces immigration laws.
The CHP has a strong relationship with the Latino community dating back to its launch of the El Protector (The Protector) program.
Police Activity Leagues (PAL) reach out to children in all communities to strengthen bonds in the community and, perhaps, prevent youth from going down the wrong path.
ICE spokeswoman Sarah Rodríguez told CNN that police is “the universally recognized term for law enforcement.”
“Our personnel routinely interact with individuals from around the world,” said Rodríguez. “In the often dangerous law enforcement arena, being able to immediately identify yourself as law enforcement may be a life-or-death issue.”
We disagree. The CHP and sheriff’s office do not identify themselves as “police” to get a person’s attention. Neither do the FBI or the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).
For ICE agents to steal the “police” use from local law enforcement is disingenous.
We support legislation by Congresswoman Nydia M. Velázquez, D-New York, that would bar ICE agents and officers from wearing clothing that uses the label “police.” The proposal would also cover U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers and agents.
Velázquez calls the current practice “deceptive.”
“It could trick families into opening their doors to agents from ICE without a warrant,” she told the Washington Post. “There’s not going to be a lot of trust between the police and communities.”
We doubt the bill will pass in a Republican-controlled Congress in support of President Donald J. Trump’s immigration crackdown. But, kudos to Velázquez.