Milwaukee Police Department (MPD) came under fire Thursday night over a recent collaboration with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The message from those testifying at the Fire and Police Commission meeting was clear: move quickly on a policy that prohibits Milwaukee Police Department’s collaboration with ICE.
More than 100 people were calling for stronger safeguards against collaboration between local law enforcement and ICE. Christine Neumann-Ortiz, executive director of Voces de la Frontera, says the current MPD policy is too discretionary and lacks due process protections.
— Angelina Mosher Salazar (@angelinamosher) October 3, 2019
"The changes we are seeking is very simple. The MPD is not going to be an arm of immigration in handing over information in participating in any kind of raid or collaborating in any form unless immigration agents present a warrant signed by a judge," says Neumann-Ortiz.
The current MPD policy reaffirms that immigration enforcement is the responsibility of the federal government and police do not unilaterally undertake immigration-related investigations or routinely inquire into the immigration status of people they come in contact with. However, it does not preclude police from cooperating with immigration officials when requested or notified of situations where a potential threat to the public is perceived.
Criticism from the public comes on the heels of a video showing Milwaukee police assisting ICE with an arrest last week. The video was released by Voces and contains distressed children.
The video shows Jose De la Cruz-Espinosa, 38, in a parked car near South 5th and West Becher streets with his wife and their three daughters, ages 14, 13, and 11. De la Cruz-Espinosa's wife, Christine, appeared before the Fire and Police Commission.
"The things that have happened to me and my girls I don’t want to happen to other families. I'm just asking for you to consider strengthening the policy because of other families that are going through this. My girls' father was taken away on a normal day," testified De la Cruz-Espinosa.
In response to the public outcry, Milwaukee Police Chief Alfonso Morales said, "Policy doesn’t reduce crime and it doesn't reduce fear. A lot of the things that are discussed are with federal government and not with local police."
Members of the Fire and Police Commission took the first step Thursday toward reappointing Morales. But Angela Lang, executive director of Black Leaders Organizing for Communities, says what's important is that people continue to follow this issue and follow the process.
"And also how we're connecting Chief Morales’ reappointment and how he's handling this situation and understanding how, maybe, a non-cooperation with ICE should be part of the discussion when he is reappointed," says Lang.
The commission will immediately begin accepting comments from the public through direct testimony, letters, and emails until Oct. 20.