Cory Booker Re-Introduces Bill to Counter ICE’s Coordination with Local Police

Senator Cory Booker (D-N.J.) re-introduced a bill that would block a program from allowing local law enforcement to partner with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to detain and arrest immigrants.

The presidential hopeful, along with Congressman Mike Quigley (D-Ill.), re-introduced the PROTECT Immigration Act on May 14. The proposed piece of legislation would stop a controversial provision that gives ICE the ability to “contract with local law enforcement for the purposes of enforcing federal immigration law,” according to a press release from Quigley’s office. Booker had originally introduced the bill in February 2017.

On May 6, the agency announced the Warrant Service Officer (WSO) program, which would give local police the authority to conduct arrests and execute warrants despite local or state rules that prohibit them from doing so, according to a statement from the agency. Through the program, ICE officers have 48 hours to transfer the individual following the arrest or the individual will be released.

“Policies that limit cooperation with ICE undermine public safety, prevent the agency from executing its federally mandated mission, and increase the risks for officers forced to make at-large arrests in unsecure locations,” acting ICE Director Matthew Albence said in the statement. “The WSO program will protect communities from criminal aliens who threaten vulnerable populations with violence, drugs, and gang activity by allowing partner jurisdictions the flexibility to make immigration arrests in their jail or correctional facility.”

The PROTECT Immigration Act would repeal Section 287(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, where the program is derived from. The statement from Quigley’s office states that the program has experienced increased participation under the Trump Administration, with 36 agreements in 16 states in January 2017 to 80 agreements in 21 states in the beginning of May 2019.

“With limited time and resources, local and state law enforcement should be focused on keeping their communities safe and pursuing serious threats, not acting as ICE agents,” Booker said in a statement to The North Star. “Immigration enforcement should be the job of the federal government and it’s time we revoke ICE’s authority to deputize our local police officers.”

Quigley said local and state law enforcement already has the job of serving their communities and immigration enforcement is the federal government’s responsibility.

“The 287(g) program erodes the relationship between law enforcement and the communities they serve and too often relies on profiling and racist stereotypes. Police should be building trust with their communities instead of using their limited resources to serve as part of this administration’s deportation force,” Quigley said in the statement.

The bill was cosponsored by Senators Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), and Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii). It has also been endorsed by organizations like the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights, the National Immigrant Justice Center, the Immigration Hub, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and many others.

In a statement following the announcement of the new program, the ACLU blamed the Trump administration, stating that ICE and other agencies “complicit in Trump’s deportation force may feel they are above the Constitution.” Lorella Praeli, the ACLU’s deputy political director and director of immigration policy and campaigns, urged local law enforcement not to join the program. “This program is just the latest scheme by ICE to enlist local police in its abusive deportation agenda. The agency explicitly aims to subvert the will of local communities that have passed ordinances to prevent exactly this kind of cooperation between police and ICE,” Praeli said in a statement. “Participants would be forced to carry the financial burden of ICE’s aggression, potentially costing the state millions in operational expenses and legal fees.”

The organization United We Dream, which is the largest immigrant youth-led network in the US, said in a statement that the program is turning local law enforcement into deportation officers.

“The Trump administration since day one has only been focused on growing the Deportation Force to kick out as many Black and brown immigrants from the country,” Luz Hilda Campos, National Deportation Defense Manager at the organization previously said. “Our community will not back down from the work of organizing and exposing every instance of abuse and brutality committed by the Deportation Force. This is our home, we are here to stay and here to fight for the dignity of every person.”

About the Author

Maria Perez is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has an M.A. in Urban Reporting from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. She has been published in the various venues, including Newsweek, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, City Limits, and local newspapers like The Wave and The Home Reporter.