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Council Cancels Pact With Immigration Unit

Posted by Seth Chazin | Nov 14, 2017 | 0 Comments

CC BY-SA 3.0 Nick Youngson

On Tuesday, September 5, 2017, the Oakland City Council rescinded an agreement with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. This means that the Oakland Police Department can not designate its investigators as U.S. Customs enforcement officers. This classification allows local police agencies to work with federal immigration officials on cases involving human trafficking, narcotics smuggling, and other cross-border crimes.

The agreement was signed in the summer of 2016 by former Police Chief Sean Whent, hours before his resignation after questions arose regarding how he handled a sexual misconduct scandal.

The Council cited concerns over data sharing, and a heightened fear for deportation as reasons for rescinding the agreement. However, there is a dispute on whether the criminal investigations department of ICE had ever been used in Oakland, and what the consequences of revoking the agreement would be.

A report issued in May 2017 by Chief Anne Kirkpatrick showed that the only recent involvement her department had was in October of 2016. Two officers were asked to provide cover as federal agents executed a search warrant.

Deputy Chief Danielle Outlaw believes that active investigations into sex and labor trafficking would be in jeopardy should the agreement no longer be in effect. She said that working with Homeland Security allows police to have, “that federal arm and to have that transnational piece that we just as a local municipal agency do not have access to."

Oakland's Privacy Advisory Commission asked for a list of officers who had participated in the ICE program. Brian Hofer, Chair of the commission, said that no list was provided as no officer had actually participated. The commission was for the agreement being rescinded, because police data could be shared with federal agencies.

San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Mateo counties have similar versions of the agreement, allowing local law enforcement to be deputized as task force officers. These agreements are limited to crime solving, and do not cover immigration law cases.

In March 2017, the Los Angeles Police Chief said that the number of reports of sexual assault and domestic violence by Latino residents had sharply decreased, due to fears of deportation, which is causing confusion and trauma in the community. The Immigration enforcement and the criminal investigation halves of ICE do cross paths, as was seen in Santa Cruz earlier in the year. Federal agents, along with the county sheriff's deputies carried out a sting operation against suspected members of the MS-13 gang. However, people who had no criminal record other than being an illegal immigrant were also arrested during the operation. Hofer describes this as a ‘guilt-by-association chilling effect'.

It is also worth noting that the Oakland City Council also passed an ordinance on the same day, to increase oversight and public engagement in surveillance agreements between the city and federal agencies.

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About the Author

Seth Chazin

Seth P. Chazin has aggressively defended clients in thousands of felony and misdemeanor cases for over 25 years. He has extensive experience representing criminal defendants in federal and state court, while handling both state and federal appeals as well.

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