Las Vegas Police Feud with Federal Immigration Authorities: It’s ‘Complicated’

The relationship between Las Vegas police and federal immigration authorities is tense, but neither side will say exactly what’s behind the bad blood.

The divide between the agencies was apparent Monday, when a new weekly report by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) put Clark County at the top of a list of “non-cooperative jurisdictions.” That was a public shaming of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, which operates the county jail, where the lack of cooperation supposedly takes place.

Metro declined to play ball with the feds on some immigration matters in recent years, but says this year that it is back in compliance with ICE policy. It, in turn, disputed the ICE report’s accuracy and said it couldn’t get any answers about why it was listed in the report from ICE or its parent agency, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

So did ICE miss the memo, or are Las Vegas police still not fully cooperating?

The answer to that question remained unclear Friday, with the next report on noncooperative jurisdictions expected in the coming days.


There are indications Las Vegas police may still be holding to ICE guidelines issued during President Barack Obama’s last term, called the Priority Enforcement Program (PEP), which categorized undocumented immigrants according to the severity of their alleged crimes and criminal records. The reasoning behind the policy was that it allowed both police and immigration officers to focus on deporting the most dangerous undocumented immigrants and engendered cooperation with law enforcement by law-abiding immigrants.

President Donald Trump in January changed those guidelines and reactivated the Secure Communities program, which requires engagement with ICE on any inmates suspected of being undocumented immigrants — not just “the worst of the worst.” Metro has repeatedly used that phrase to describe its priorities since it joined an ICE program called 287(g) that deputizes its officers as immigration agents in 2008.

Liesl Freedman, general counsel for Metro, declined to spell out whether the department continues to prioritize in terms of its communications with ICE, saying “the nuances between the different types of categories that ICE has … are complicated.”