MILWAUKEE (AP) — Immigrant rights groups are accusing Milwaukee leaders of caving in to pressure from the Trump administration and quietly expanding cooperation with immigration officials.
One group, Voces de la Frontera, says Milwaukee officials are weakening safeguards for immigrants by making it easier for the Milwaukee Police Department to work with federal immigration agents. The group also warns the changes could lead to racial profiling, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported Tuesday.
Jeff Fleming, a spokesman for Barrett, said the mayor remains committed to immigrants.
“The mayor is not wavering at all in his support of immigrants in Milwaukee. For reasons of technical compliance, some changes were required in official policy,” Fleming said. “But again the mayor stands with immigrants, the immigrant community and the entire city on respecting the value of immigrants.”
But Voces’ executive director, Christine Neumann-Ortiz, criticized changes in standard operating procedures that were approved last month by Police Chief Edward Flynn and are set to take effect Thursday.
One eliminates a directive that officers were not to question people about their immigration status unless they met a narrow list of criteria. Another change states that officers “shall inform” federal immigration officials of the whereabouts or behaviors of any “suspected illegal immigrant” when that person is arrested for a felony or other serious crimes, such as those involving terrorism or street gangs.
“It literally mandates that the Police Department turn over the information,” said Darryl Morin of the League of United Latin American Citizens.
The Milwaukee Police Department did not respond to the newspaper’s requests for comment.
Morin and Neumann-Ortiz said the policy changes occurred largely out of view of the public.
“We completely condemn the undemocratic process by which this decision was made,” Neumann-Ortiz said. “Basically the community was kept in the dark that the city, under Barrett’s leadership, was caving into pressure from the Trump administration.”
The Trump administration threatened in April to cut grant money for Milwaukee County, but not the city, over so-called sanctuary policies for immigrants.
Barrett has been a vocal critic of efforts by President Donald Trump and his administration to clamp down on “sanctuary cities,” repeatedly saying they were trying to force local governments to act as “border guards.”