How Trump's Executive Order 13768 is impacting law enforcement

There is a lot of debate and concern among law enforcement officials about EO 13768

Ever since President Trump signed Executive Order 13768, Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States, several local and state law enforcement officials around the country and the IACP have voiced opposing views. Shortly after EO 13768 was signed, the IACP issued a press release that ‘strongly opposed’ the use of local and state police to enforce Trump’s immigration mandate. Specifically, the IACP stated that, “the issue of state, tribal, or local law enforcement’s participation in immigration enforcement is an inherently local decision that must be made by law enforcement executives, working with their elected officials, community leaders, and citizens.”

More recently, a group of 63 local police chiefs and sheriffs representing various jurisdictions, the Law Enforcement Immigration Task Force, came together and sent a letter to members of the U.S. Senate. The task force expressed concerns about maintaining safety in their communities and possibly losing federal grant funding if they opt out of federal immigration enforcement duties. Their letter urges Congress to develop a strategy that leads to legislative resolution.

There is a lot of debate and controversy among law enforcement officials about EO 13768, and the profession is clearly divided.

United States President Donald Trump (C) displays one of the four executive orders he signed during a visit to the Department of Homeland Security January 25, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo/Chip Somodevilla / Pool via CNP /MediaPunch/IPX)
United States President Donald Trump (C) displays one of the four executive orders he signed during a visit to the Department of Homeland Security January 25, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo/Chip Somodevilla / Pool via CNP /MediaPunch/IPX)

It is important to note that EO 13768 does not require law enforcement agencies to enforce federal immigration laws, rather it allows for the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to use existing authority under Section 287(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act to enter into voluntary agreements with law enforcement agencies to perform immigration enforcement duties.

If it’s voluntary, then why is there opposition?

Here are two issues that are causing concern among law enforcements agencies that are choosing not to enter into immigration enforcement agreements with DHS.

1. Possibility of losing federal grant funding

Law enforcement agencies that serve sanctuary cities face potential risk of losing federal grant funding. There is no legal definition for a sanctuary city, but it’s essentially a city that welcomes refugees and illegal immigrants.

According to EO 13768, “Sanctuary jurisdictions across the United States willfully violate Federal law in an attempt to shield aliens from removal from the United States.” Then in Section 9 (a) it states, “In furtherance of this policy, the Attorney General and the Secretary, in their discretion and to the extent consistent with law, shall ensure that jurisdictions that willfully refuse to comply with 8 U.S.C. 1373 (sanctuary jurisdictions) are not eligible to receive Federal grants, except as deemed necessary for law enforcement purposes by the Attorney General or the Secretary.”

All majorly populated sanctuary cities receive millions of federal dollars every year to support operations – from infrastructure improvement to educational programs and, of course, law enforcement operations. With the stipulations in this EO, these cities may be at risk of losing significant funding that they have relied heavily upon for years.

Right now, there is no certainty one way or another whether federal grant funds will be unavailable to sanctuary cities, but many law enforcement agencies are rightfully concerned. However, many reports that have come out since EO 13768 are indicating that restricting federal grant funding to sanctuary cities because they do not enforce federal law would be in violation of the 10th Amendment.

2. Creating fear in communities

Law enforcement agencies that have a history of positive police-community relations are now seeing fear from those they have been serving for many years. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of jurisdictions that have large immigrant populations, and since EO 13768 was signed there is a heightened level of distress in many of these communities. This is causing strain and putting many local police and sheriff’s departments on the defensive. Local law enforcement agencies need to make deliberate efforts to help remove any fear from communities and create specific, actionable plans to maintain their community’s trust.

While discussions continue to take place in Washington D.C. about EO 13768, the law enforcement profession must pay attention to the decisions that are being made and continue to assess how any decisions will impact their communities as well as agency operations.

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