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Sheriff Who Calls Black Lives Matter a Terrorist Group Is Joining the Trump Administration (Updated)

Tina Vasquez

Milwaukee Sheriff David Clarke's addition to the administration could be part of Trump's effort to force so-called sanctuary cities to become part of his growing deportation machinery.

UPDATE, June 19, 1:18 p.m.: The Washington Post reported June 17 that Clarke withdrew his name from consideration for an assistant secretary position at the Department of Homeland Security

Milwaukee Sheriff David Clarke, who has advocated for stripping his political opponents of constitutional protections and whose Milwaukee County Jail has been responsible for in-custody deaths, has announced that he was appointed to a high-ranking position in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

DHS has declined to confirm the appointment, but the Washington Post is reporting that Clarke said Wednesday during a local radio interview that he will be appointed as an assistant secretary in the Office of Partnership and Engagement, “acting as a liaison between the agency and local police departments and likely pressuring them to enforce the Trump administration’s tough new crackdown on illegal immigration.”

Clarke during the 2016 presidential election was one of Donald Trump’s most vocal supporters and one of the most controversial. The Milwaukee sheriff has attacked the Movement for Black Lives, comparing them to the KKK and speculating without evidence “that it will join forces with the Islamic State to overthrow the U.S. government,” the Washington Post reported.

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Clarke’s position does not require a U.S. Senate confirmation hearing and the Post reported that it’s a matter of completing paperwork before Clarke leaves his role as sheriff to join DHS.

Clarke’s addition to the administration could be part of Trump’s effort to force so-called sanctuary cities to not only honor Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainer requests, but to actively engage in immigration enforcement.

A new report, The Promise of Sanctuary Cities and the Need for Criminal Justice Reforms in an Era of Mass Deportation, outlined how federal immigration law and deportation policies are entangled with the criminal justice system, and that even in so-called sanctuary cities, criminal justice systems often feed Trump’s deportation machine.

Trump is relying on local law enforcement to carry out his promised mass deportations, so cities that claim “sanctuary” are disrupting this effort. It appears as if it will be Clarke’s responsibility to pressure local law enforcement to do the president’s bidding.

The Priority Enforcement Program (PEP) and 287(g) effectively deputize local law enforcement to operate as immigration officers. But even in daily operations, local jurisdictions assist ICE.

When any person is taken into custody by local law enforcement, their fingerprints are captured and run through various databases and sent to other agencies, including DHS, which encompasses ICE. For those in the country without authorization, this means an arrest for something as minor as turnstile hopping can lead to deportation back to potentially life-threatening circumstances.

Before Clarke’s announcement, Paromita Shah, associate director of the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild, spoke to Rewire about Trump’s sanctuary city crackdown. Though his administration has been effective at pushing the rhetoric that sanctuary cities endanger lives despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, Shah said the crackdown is really about forcing local law enforcement to engage in immigration enforcement.

“When it comes to data sharing among local law enforcement agencies like ICE, I don’t think DHS has really hidden its desire, which is to have all of these agencies collaborate and push for this new kind of interoperability where ICE can have access to a web of regional and state data and nab anyone they want whenever they want,” Shah said.

There are some sanctuary cities whose policies never explicitly mention protecting undocumented people. Shah said that for many cities, sanctuary policies are about cities simply having the right to dictate regulations around the health, safety, and welfare of their communities.

“When you combine immigration law and local policing, it’s a really ugly experiment and only vulnerable people are suffering because of it,” Shah said. “I honestly think that what Trump wants to do is to take us into a new age of federal immigration policing that is very similar to a paramilitary force. Few advocates have looked at the executive orders on immigration and the executive orders on policing side-by-side and noticed that they’re quite shackled together. Trump wants to deliver every police department in the country to DHS and combine them all in a way that’s almost like a national police force. We’re going to have over-policing coupled with hyper-aggressive, irresponsible ICE enforcement and it’s gong to be disastrous.”

Shah pointed to a series of anti-immigrant bills set to be taken up this week by the House Judiciary Committee, led by Chair Bob Goodlatte (R-VA). The bills will “‘ramp up a Trump deportation force,’ undermine public safety by militarizing federal immigration agents, and waste millions in taxpayer dollars to terrorize millions of immigrant families nationwide,” Daily Kos reported.

One of the more troubling aspects of Goodlatte’s “ICE authorization” bill, Shah said, is that it would arm every ICE officer with an assault rifle.

“Why do ICE agents need assault rifles? When you really think about that, and the fact that local law enforcement is becoming increasingly militarized, a really scary future begins to emerge,” Shah said.

There are a series of bills, similar to Texas’ recent SB 4, that attack sanctuary cities. This includes a bill from Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID) that would force local law enforcement officers to become federal immigration agents and a bill by Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) and Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX) that has yet to be unveiled, but that the Washington Post reported would “force parents of undocumented teens to wear electronic ankle monitors so their children do not skip deportation hearings.”

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