WASHINGTON — National law enforcement groups are sharply divided over President Trump’s plan to crack down on sanctuary cities that shield illegal immigrants from deportation, as some warn that law enforcement’s already fraught relationship with minority communities could be further damaged by pressing local officers to enforce immigration laws.
Central to Trump’s order aimed at up to 300 communities that maintain policies protecting the undocumented is a threat to withhold federal money from cities that do not comply with federal immigration enforcement efforts. Although the order contains a provision that could allow funding to continue to flow to local police, pending approval by the attorney general, some law enforcement and municipal authorities described the action as akin to unlawful “coercion.”
“Local police departments work hard to build and preserve trust with all of the communities they serve, including immigrant communities,” a joint statement issued by the Major Cities Chiefs Association and the U.S. Conference of Mayors said. “Immigrants residing in our cities must be able to trust the police and all of the city government.”
It is not the first time the chiefs’ group, a coalition of top police officials representing the largest agencies in the country, has counseled against expanding local police responsibilities to include immigration enforcement.
Four years ago, the group issued its own “immigration policy paper’’ warning that local officers lacked basic resources, training and “clear authority” to assist in such matters.
“Immigration laws are very complex and the training required to understand them significantly detracts from the core mission of local police to create safe communities,” the association stated.