BELOIT - When immigration enforcement agents come to Rock County, even the local cops may be left in the dark.
Law enforcement agencies across the county say the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency only notifies departments of operations if the feds want assistance.
In a single Twitter post on June 17, President Donald Trump reignited the debate surrounding undocumented immigration in the country by saying the federal government had plans to begin arresting and deporting "millions" of undocumented people. But in the days that followed, federal immigration authorities somewhat walked back the president's threat, clarifying that ICE would begin the process by rounding up those who have been issued final orders of removal by immigration courts. On Friday, a report showed ICE was preparing the arrests of up to 2,000 families facing deportation orders in up to 10 major cities. Those arrests were scheduled to start over the weekend, but on Saturday Trump delayed the raids for two weeks to see if Congress could "work out a solution," according to the Associated Press.
In the past, local law enforcement agencies including the Beloit Police Department and Janesville Police Department have assisted ICE in a limited capacity. In September of 2018, federal authorities used booking facilities and interview rooms at the Janesville Police Department. At that time of a statewide raid, 83 people were arrested, including five arrests in Rock County.
ICE does not identify those taken into custody, citing privacy and agency policy issues, according to a news release at the time of the September of 2018 statewide action.
On Feb. 20, Beloit Police assisted ICE with a search warrant that was executed in the 1700 block of Tremont Drive regarding an international criminal investigation. It was not an immigration-related investigation, according to Beloit Strategic Communications Director Sarah Millard.
Chief David Zibolski said the department cooperates with ICE only if federal authorities have a search warrant. Zibolski noted that local law enforcement does not have the authority to enforce immigration-related offenses.
"If there's a warrant, we will assist them," Zibolski said. "I have always said this (immigration) is a congressional issue."
Zibolski stressed that the issue needs to be handled by federal lawmakers, noting the strain the volatile issue places on communities.
Janesville Police Chief David Moore said ICE notifies the department when federal authorities "request our assistance for City of Janesville activities."
According to Rock County Sheriff's Office Chief Deputy Barb Tillman, the sheriff's office is notified when ICE requests assistance or use of county facilities.
Tillman said in the past ICE had requested to use sheriff's office space tied to an immigration issue, a request that was denied by former Sheriff Bob Spoden.
The sheriff's office is in a unique position.
Each month it receives around one or two immigration hold requests from ICE for inmates at the Rock County Jail. According to department policy, ICE is authorized to view fingerprint and in-take booking data. As part of standard operating procedure for the sheriff's office from a policy authorized in April 2018, the sheriff's office will not restrict ICE from making immigration hold requests. All immigration detainer documents will be served to any inmate in the jail's custody, according to policy.
But the jail does not hold inmates on a request of ICE alone. The sheriff's office will start release procedures if an individual is no longer eligible to be held at the jail, with ICE to be contacted and notified of impending release, according to sheriff's office policy.
An inmate will only be held at the jail for a maximum of 24 hours pending an immigration hold request. If no judicial review has taken place and no final order of removal is previously listed, an inmate would be released, according to Rock County Jail Commander Craig Strause.
"...the individual will be released as soon as reasonably practicable within our normal release procedures," the policy states. "If DHS indicates that they are immediately able to drive to our location to pick up the individual, Rock County Sheriff's Office staff may, in good faith, believe that DHS has arranged for immediate transport. DHS should be able to provide an estimated time of arrival, not to exceed three hours and the inmate should be released within four hours."
Sheriff's office policy also states any deviations from this procedure must be approved by supervising staff in consultation with command staff.
According to ICE data, it is estimated 1 million immigrants have been served final orders of removal. It's estimated there are nearly 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the country, according to the Pew Research Center.
Under an expedited adjudication plan, over 13,000 immigration cases have been closed since September of 2018, according to U.S. Department of Justice data. Of those immigrants, nearly all (12,784) were ordered to be deported, but around 85 percent of those 12,784 cases were issued in absentia, meaning the person was not present when the order was given. According to DOJ data, as of September 2018, there were over 1 million pending immigration cases, with only 395 federal immigration judges authorized to hear cases. According to ICE data, 158,581 immigration arrests were made in 2018.
Do's and don'ts for police
• What local law enforcement DOESN'T do:
- Inquire about immigration status during traffic stops or other police contacts
- Make arrests based on suspicion of unlawful immigration status
- Conduct unilateral warrant searches of homes and vehicles on the premise of suspecting unlawful immigration status
• What local law enforcement DOES do:
- Assist federal immigration authorities on investigations
- Assist federal authorities with serving warrants
- Offer space including interview rooms and booking facilities during enforcement