US agents find ways around ‘sanctuary’ policies

Thursday, March 14, 2019

PHOENIX (AP) — Two years after New Mexico’s largest county barred local law enforcement from cooperating with immigration authorities, its leaders learned that the policy was being subverted from within.

Staff members at the Bernalillo County jail in Albuquerque were still granting immigration authorities access to its database and, in some cases, tipping them off when a person of interest was being released.

“I was surprised and horrified,” said Maggie Hart Stebbins, chairwoman of the Bernalillo County Commission. “Individual employees do not have the freedom to pick and choose what they want to observe.”

The disclosure last month cast a spotlight on an oftenoverlooked way in which immigration officials around the U.S. may be getting around local “sanctuary” policies — through informal relationships with police and others willing to cooperate when they’re not supposed to. Immigration activists say they have seen it places like Philadelphia, Chicago and several communities in California, which has a statewide sanctuary law.

On Wednesday, for example, the American Civil Liberties Union reported that emails show that a detective in Orange County, California, regularly looked up license plate information for an immigration officer.

Over 100 local governments around the country have adopted a variety of sanctuary rules barring police and jails from cooperating with immigration authorities, often by refusing to hold people arrested on local charges past their release date at the request of immigration officers who intend to pick them up.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement says these types of policies have made the streets less safe. The restrictions have also led the agency in the past couple of years to find other ways to make arrests, such as by staking out courthouses for immigrants, a practice ICE had generally avoided.

In 2017, the governing commission in Bernalillo County, population 680,000, barred the use of county money, resources or personnel to enforce civil immigration laws. County employees are not allowed to investigate, question or apprehend people based on their immigration status. Last month, Bernalillo County passed another resolution further restricting county workers from sharing any sort of information regarding immigration status.

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