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Let's get an on-the-ground look at policing in so-called sanctuary cities. The definition varies, but generally these are places where immigrants are not asked about their legal status and where local officials do not prosecute immigrants based solely on their immigration status.
President Trump signed an executive order recently which calls for withholding federal funds from sanctuary cities.
Last week, the cities of Chelsea and Lawrence filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration. The suit argues that the executive order violates the separation of powers, saying, "The Executive Order seeks, without congressional authorization, to commandeer local officials to enforce the federal government's immigration policies, and threatens municipalities with crippling losses of funding, apparently including funding for programs with no connection to law enforcement, if the municipalities do not come to heel. Particularly for smaller and more impoverished cities and towns, the impact of this Executive Order is both immediate and chilling."
On his concerns about Trump's Executive Order
"The concern at a local level, working in a diverse city like Chelsea, is trust. That's the first word that comes to mind: trust. And we don't want, from a local police perspective, to do anything that violates that trust with the residents that we have.
I'm in my tenth year as the police chief. I've been with the department for 30 years. We have a very diverse community in Chelsea, probably half the city if not more is foreign-born ... These individuals can be targeted for committing crimes and we want these people to trust the police to report crimes. If they're in fear that we're gonna enforce locally, civil federal immigration law, we won't have that trust."
On the current sanctuary city policy in Chelsea
"... They're treated like anybody else if they are, in fact committing a crime. They're subject to booking, where we take their fingerprints and their photographs.
Their fingerprints will go to the state police instantaneously, electronically ... and then in turn, will go to the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security. [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] has a database and if any individual is on that database that they have an actionable interest in that person, they make a decision whether or not to send a detainer — a document that's good for 48 hours. And we honestly, we honor all detainers. We haven't had many.
"... There's two different federal policies that have come out over the course of the last 5 years. One of them was the policy known as the Secure Communities Program which was in effect from May of 2012 until January 1 of 2015. And then there was the Priority Enforcement Program which was in effect until January 25 of this year. But we've only had 46 detainers out of 7,000 arrests in that time period. We've honored all 46 ... The person was held overnight or sent to the court that day if court was open or went to court the next day. That's the process."
On what they would have to do if Chelsea decided not to be a sanctuary city
"... In Chelsea [the sanctuary city mandate is] a page and a half document, which the only sentence that really specifically pertains to the police says the local police shall not engage in raids that are not directly related to public safety. Period.
ICE has two branches one of them is Homeland security investigations, they investigate crimes ... we work with them all the time. The other branch, known as the enforcement and removal operations branch, they're more of a civil component ... They'll notify us they're coming to the city, they're going to a designated address looking for an individual. But because they're enforcing federal civil immigration law, we don't respond with them. For the simple reason, we can't.
... Our goal is to work together to partner with all residents to address recurring problems in the city. And for a local police officer, be it myself or ranking officer, a patrol officer, to sit down in the community room setting, talking about partnering to address certain community issues and then later on that night, working with an agency ... to enforce civil immigration law, honestly I'd be talking out of both sides of my mouth."
On if their policy undermines the law
"... People that ultimately come to our community, they may look a certain way, they may look like they were born in another country, but how do we, as local police, if we had that authority, pick and choose who we think is here legally versus illegally based on their accent, based on the way they talk, the way they look? I think there's a slippery slope there. Something that from a local police perspective, I would never wanna go down."
On the possibility of losing local funding from the government
"There's approximately $14 million in federal funding out of $170 million budget in Chelsea, which is about 8 percent of our budget so it's significant certainly. A lot of it goes to the schools. A lot of it goes to health and human services programs. Some of it goes to the police department for different funding initiatives ... we've actually hired nine police officers over the past six years from federal funds, split with federal and local money. It's very helpful, it's money that we count on, money that we need."
This story aired on February 16, 2017.
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