The Oakland City Council has gone quite a bit further than setting itself up as a "sanctuary city" and passed a resolution cutting all ties between its police and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Our northern neighbor says that even minimal cooperation between city law enforcement and ICE has become detrimental to public safety. Oakland has been a sanctuary city since 1986.
The council's resolution ends an agreement the city made with ICE last year, which allowed Oakland police officers to participate on ICE task forces with the goal of combating customs-related offenses like human trafficking and drug smuggling, according to the Courthouse News Service.
The customs task forces cooperation agreement did not allow ICE to use Oakland police personnel or resources for immigration enforcement.
Nevertheless, critics of even limited cooperation say that, considering the Trump Administration's anti-immigrant rhetoric, any cooperation between local police and ICE will only serve to discourage immigrants from contacting police. Unauthorized immigrants, especially, may fear deportation if they contact police. That means a significant proportion of city residents will not call 9-11 when they are victims of or witnesses to crime.
"If the goal is simply to have ICE be present and to instill fear in noncitizens, then it makes sense to have ICE continually present in local law enforcement agencies," said a Santa Clara University law professor. "If the goal is public safety and community wellbeing, then ICE's presence and local agreements to maintain that presence do not make sense."
One reason the resolution came up before the council was that the Privacy Advisory Commission reported that the agreement had failed to improve public safety. Indeed, no Oakland officer had been assigned to a single task force since the agreement was signed last year. No reimbursements were issued to the city for overtime, either, indicating there was no real need for the officers to participate.
The letter also pointed out the harsh truth that immigrants are already holding back from contacting police. Since last year, the Houston Police Department has noted a 43-percent reduction in reports of rape and sexual assault by Latinos, as well as a 12 percent drop in reports of robberies and aggravated assault. Likewise, the LAPD reported a 25 percent drop in reports of sexual assault by Latinos since last year.
End of agreement may not mean the end of federal help on customs crimes
Interestingly, a law professor at the University of San Francisco told the Courthouse News Service that the end of the customs cooperation agreement will likely have little real impact.
"ICE and other federal agencies, when they have information like that in the local jurisdiction, they'll still pass that on to the local police."