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WI Supreme Court: Clarke Does Not Have to Release Info about Federal Detainees

Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke does not have to reveal anything about the prisoners he is detaining for federal immigration authorities, according to a ruling Friday by the Wisconsin Supreme Court. It sided with the sheriff in the legal battle.

The immigrant rights group Voces de la Frontera had filed a request to view the federal documents (called I-247 forms) under the Wisconsin Open Records Law, insisting it pertains to all local law enforcement authorities, including when they hold prisoners for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. According to Voces, it needs a way to monitor authorities to make sure they are not violating any individual's rights.

Clarke initially released redacted copies of the federal documents, blacking out some of the information they contained about the detainees including their immigration status. He later argued that federal non-disclosure rules should apply because the documents could contain sensitive and confidential information.

After Friday's ruling the Sheriff released a statement reading, in part, “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.”

Voces Executive Director Christine Neumann-Ortiz also released a statement reading, in part,  “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.”

In issuing its decision Friday, the Wisconsin Supreme Court overturned the decisions reached by both a federal judge and a federal appeals court. The ruling came on a 4-2 vote, with Justices Ann Walsh Bradley and Shirley Abrahamson dissenting. Justice Annette Ziegler did not participate.

Voces says it is considering an appeal.