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Milwaukee Police Department endorses change to immigration arrest policy

Immigrant rights group say Milwaukee caves in to pressure
Posted at 9:59 PM, Dec 12, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-12 23:35:22-05

MILWAUKEE — The Milwaukee Police Department is one step closer to changing its policy on helping immigration agents arrest undocumented immigrants. If passed by the full Fire and Police Commission, most arrest warrants would need a judge's signature before police can get involved.

There are two kinds of arrest warrants at issue here. Civil warrants, which can be written by an administrator at I.C.E. and judicial warrants, which are signed by a judge. Under this proposed policy change, Milwaukee police would only help with warrants approved by a judge to show probable cause of a crime.

Before Thursday night's Fire and Police Commission committee meeting, immigrant rights activists rallied around Jose de la Cruz. He was just released on bail after being arrested by I.C.E. and Milwaukee police back in September. Immigration attorney Marisabel Cabrera believes M.P.D. should not have helped in his arrest.

"I.C.E. right now, it's pretty obvious that they are a rogue agency of the federal government that is essentially prosecuting people based on what they look like and where they come from," Cabrera said.

Latino group Voces de la Frontera sent M.P.D. a list of changes they'd like to see when it comes to assisting immigration agents. Chief Alfonso Morales said his department has worked to find common ground.

"There's been a ton of discussion, compromise and several different meetings to address this," Morales said.

Under the agreement, Morales said Milwaukee police officers would only assist I.C.E. when a judge has signed the arrest warrant. However, some exceptions would allow police to help under administrative warrants when there's a criminal element.

"So if you have a child who is a victim of a sexual assault or some sort of human trafficking, there should be no need to have an additional warrant in the system for us to cooperate with I.C.E.," said a member of Morales' staff.

A Fire and Police Commission committee unanimously approved the change. Voces de la Frontera's executive director Christine Neumann-Ortiz said she's overjoyed by the agreement.

"The idea of an administrative warrant, it really is a civil, both the police agree as well that their role is not to serve as immigration, their role is public safety."

This policy change would still need to be approved by the full Fire and Police Commission. They're expected to take a vote next Wednesday, December 18.