Las Vegas Sun

March 22, 2019

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Metro to curb practice of turning over low-level offenders to ICE

2019 State Of The Department

Steve Marcus

Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo delivers the State of the Department address at the Smith Center Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2019.

Metro Police are changing their policies on turning over certain undocumented immigrants to Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

In a meeting of the Assembly Judiciary Committee on Friday, police lobbyist Chuck Callaway said Sheriff Joe Lombardo had directed the jail to not turn over undocumented immigrants who are booked for minor traffic crimes or misdeameanors.

“I know the jail is in the process of moving forward with that policy change,” Callaway said.

The department takes part in an agreement with ICE under Section 287(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act. The agreement means that the jail screens anyone booked and allows ICE to request they be detained if they are wanted for deportation proceedings.

While municipalities under a 287(g) agreement could, in the past, choose to screen members of the public for immigration law violations, they can no longer do so, and Metro Police never did. Screening must occur at a jail.

“We do not do immigration enforcement. That’s the job of the federal government,” Callaway said. “It’s not our job and we believe that it deteriorates partnerships that we have in the community and it also makes some folks afraid to come forward to report crime and to interact with officers."

Callaway does not believe the change in enforcement will negatively affect the department’s relationship with ICE.

In an email, ICE spokesperson Paige Hughes said, “The partnership between the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department remains an effective program for enhancing the safety and security of the Las Vegas communities. The current 287(g) memorandum of agreement states that ICE enforcement priorities are agreed to and will be followed.”

The change came a day after activists held a short protest and news conference outside the police department in opposition to the ICE agreement.

The activists have filed a public records request with the department to get data on how many undocumented immigrants have been turned over to ICE. A police spokesman said the department does not have the information immediately available, as it is maintained by ICE.

In a news release, the activists praised the decision while raising concerns about officers who may target undocumented immigrants in order to start deportation proceedings. The topic was also brought up by Callaway, who said that while not department policy, he wouldn’t rule out the possibility of it happening.

“Could that happen? Yes, but under these new policy changes that the sheriff has implemented, if that person is subject to a very minor traffic violation or something like jaywalking, the sheriff has now directed a policy be drafted that we do not detain those folks for ICE,” he said.