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ICYMI: Santa Cruz Police Chief Blasts DHS for Betrayal

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A joint operation targeting gangs becomes cover for an immigration sweep

Washington, DC – As we highlighted yesterday, law enforcement voices across the country are speaking out against Trump’s mass deportation. In a press conference held yesterday, Santa Cruz Police Chief Kevin Vogel joined the chorus, big league.

Chief Vogel’s police department originally worked with the Department of Homeland Security to conduct an operation targeting suspected MS-13 gang members. During the operation, however, DHS also arrested approximately a dozen undocumented immigrant residents with no criminal record — violating Santa Cruz’s sanctuary city policies.

As Chief Vogel noted, “This flies in the face of the values that our community holds very deeply. The community has an absolute right to be angry over this … The detention and the removal of these individuals based solely upon their immigration status flies in the face of the City Council resolution declaring Santa Cruz a place of trust and safety for all local immigrants, as well as the values our community holds very, very deeply.”

The chief declared that they will no longer work with DHS, stating: “We can’t cooperate with a law enforcement agency we cannot trust.” He added, “This has violated the trust of our community, and we cannot tell you how disappointed we are by the betrayal of the Department of Homeland Security,” Vogel said.

As reported by the Los Angeles Times, Jennie Pasquarella, a senior staff attorney and director of the immigrants’ rights project at the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California noted that the actions of DHS agents in Santa Cruz were symptomatic of a greater, nationwide issue: “ICE is completely unhinged from any of the prior policies that governed their enforcement actions. They’re going after everybody that they find including collateral arrests. It signals a dramatic shift in the way that ICE is doing their work.”

In his outrage, Chief Vogel joins Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez, who announced this week that the Houston county will opt-out of the 287(g) program, an effort to involve local law enforcement in federal immigration enforcement.

As Sheriff Gonzalez made clear on MSNBC this week, this would hurt his mission to police the community and solve crimes:

“[I]t really concerns me to see that kind of fear happen in communities. To me it leads to more mistrust of police at a time when we need to be growing more trust, more collaboration with communities to solve local crimes … I’m going to focus on what’s best for the men and women of the Harris County Sheriff’s Office as well as what I can do each day to make sure the residents of Harris County are safe.”

Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice Education Fund, said, “Chief Vogel is part of a growing group of law enforcement professionals who view ICE as undisciplined and untrustworthy and view Trump’s new blueprint for mass deportation as a threat to their public safety mission. When immigrants see local police as extensions of Trump’s deportation force they stop reporting crimes, serving as witnesses and being the force multiplier local police need to take criminals off the streets. Trump and his white nationalist aides may think they can bully local law enforcement into colluding with their fear tactics and raids. But as Chief Vogel makes clear, the priority of local law enforcement is to put public safety first, and that commitment extends to all residents, including immigrants. Enforcing flawed immigration policy on behalf of the federal government undermines that goal.”

Follow Frank Sharry and America’s Voice Education Fund on Twitter: @FrankSharry and @AmericasVoice

America’s Voice Education Fund – Harnessing the power of American voices and American values to win common sense immigration reform