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Help immigrants and asylum seekers arriving in our communities!

U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas yesterday betrayed the Biden administration’s commitments to disentangle local policing from the federal detention and deportation system and called on local law enforcement agencies to assist DHS in the enforcement of federal civil immigration law. His remarks oppose demands from communities around the country who have passed sanctuary laws and protections to avoid exactly such entanglement.

The National Immigrant Justice Center, the National Immigration Project (NIPNLG), the Immigration Legal Resource Center (ILRC) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) urge Secretary Mayorkas to abandon this plea in light of the well-documented harms to Black and Brown immigrant communities that result from entanglement of local police and federal immigration agencies. The secretary based his request on an erroneous assessment that DHS has meaningfully ended practices that perpetuate racial profiling and ignores the reality that entangling local law enforcement with federal immigration enforcement is categorically harmful.

When local police – who lack expertise and knowledge of immigration laws – act as or actively cooperate with ICE officers, the racial biases and discriminaton of the criminal legal system are layered on top of the already racist enforcement of U.S. immigration law. On numerous occasions, the U.S. Department of Justice itself has found such cooperation to violate U.S. civil rights laws.

The secretary also directly contradicts promises made by the Biden administration to aggressively limit such DHS programs in recognition that they “undermine trust and cooperation between local law enforcement and the communities they are charged to protect.” Millions of people live in fear that basic interactions with local police and government agencies will result in deportation and separation from family. The cooperation Secretary Mayorkas endorses undermines public safety. Instead, he should be lauding the numerous sheriffs and jurisdictions that have enacted sensible policies rejecting this cooperation to protect their immigrant communities.

We urge Sec. Mayorkas to reverse course and follow-through on President Biden’s critical promises to affirmatively terminate “287(g)” agreements” with local law enforcement agencies around the country. He must also terminate the Secure Communities program and the use of ICE’s detainer practice–which often runs afoul of constitutional and statutory law. Last year, over 60 members of the U.S. House of Representatives sent letters to Secretary Mayorkas echoing this call.

Federal-local ICE entanglement programs and practices turn local law enforcement agencies into a gateway to deportation, co-opt local resources into questionable, racially discriminatory purposes, and strip communities of safety and public trust.