Should Milwaukee Police Collaborate With ICE? Fire & Police Commission Takes On The Issue

Nov 1, 2019

Activists for immigration groups do not want the Milwaukee Police Department (MPD) to collaborate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). They spoke out Thursday at a Fire and Police Commission Policies and Standards Committee hearing trying to change the department's standard operating procedures.

MPD also offered up changes of its own.

Now, the ball is in the Fire and Police Commission's court to decide what changes to make — if any.

An immigration activist protests Milwaukee Police Department's collaboration with ICE at Thursday's meeting.
Credit Maayan Silver

Assemblywoman and lawyer Marisabel Cabrera spoke for Voces De La Frontera, an immigration advocacy group. She says their version is simple, and would encourage community trust and minimize fear of law enforcement.

"This policy makes it very clear, is very transparent to the public and to the rank and file that if there's not a judicial warrant, you stay out of it," Cabrera explains.

That would mean MPD can't detain or investigate people on ICE's behalf or share information with the agency unless a judge signs a warrant authorizing it. Even if ICE or any other federal immigration agency has drafted an administrative warrant, which is a document the agency produces calling for someone's detention, since those aren't signed by a judge.

READ: Milwaukee Latino Immigrants Study To Become Citizens In Response To Political Climate

Voces De La Frontera has been asking for these, and other, changes since late last year. But the issue received more grassroots attention starting in late September. That's when a local man, Jose Alejandro De la Cruz-Espinosa, was arrested by MPD and transferred to ICE custody — without a judicial warrant.

Video footage of De la Cruz-Espinosa's children tearfully calling for him enraged the community. His wife Kristine De la Cruz spoke at Thursday night’s hearing.

"I don't know whether to apply for passports. Am I going to be going to Mexico? Our whole life changed within one day, one day. Milwaukee Police, I really feel like they violated my family’s trust, and this is my girls' home town," Kristine De la Cruz says.

MPD Chief Alfonso Morales was not present at the public hearing, but MPD Inspector Terrence Gordon was representing the department. He indicated that Morales OK'd several changes, including requiring judicial warrants to hand over people to ICE.

But Gordon says Morales wants to keep several exceptions to that rule. For example, "Notification or cooperation in addition to a judicial warrant could also occur if an individual's engaged or suspected of terrorism or espionage," Gordon explains. He says officers should have discretion in those situations for public safety.

Special public hearing of Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission taking up whether Milwaukee Police can collaborate with ICE.
Credit Maayan Silver

MPD has consistently said that policy doesn't decrease crime or reduce fear, community engagement and interaction does. But activists say policy makes a big difference.

The Milwaukee City Attorney’s Office reviewed the Voces policy and says the changes proposed would be lawful.

So, the issue now for the Fire and Police Commission is what makes the best policy.

The Policies and Standards committee will announce its decision on Nov. 14. The changes would then go before the full Commission.