On July 1, a violent deportable alien allegedly killed 32-year-old American citizen Kathryn "Kate" Steinle, and the American public was left wondering who is going to keep them safe. This heinous crime also revealed that Immigrations and Customs Enforcement officers and local sheriffs need to communicate better.
Kate Steinle's murder was horribly tragic, but the subsequent blame-game between ICE and San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi was disheartening. When we unsnap and draw-down on each other with accusatory fingers, we accomplish nothing. When we become divided, we unwittingly empower the criminal alien element and their ACLU cheerleaders. We aren't going to fix the bad players and the broken system, but we can overcome politically imposed constraints and work together. The starting point is to listen to each other's concerns regarding immigration detainers and request for notification of release.
According to 8 Coded Federal Regulation 287.7, "A detainer serves to advise another law enforcement agency that the Department (DHS) seeks custody of an alien presently in the custody of that agency, for the purpose of arresting and removing the alien. The detainer is a request that such agency advise the department, prior to release of the alien, in order for the department to arrange to assume custody, in situations when gaining immediate physical custody is either impracticable or impossible."
The detainer is a request, not a federal court-issued warrant. This raises legitimate liability concerns for sheriffs who lodge a deportable alien beyond his or her scheduled release date. Alternatively, if the sheriffs don't notify ICE of a pending alien's release, then ICE will not have an opportunity to take custody of the alien. There are two challenges ICE and sheriffs have in common: a shortage of officers/deputies and a shortage of beds. These challenges require funding that politicians are apparently unwilling to commit to. Therefore, ICE officers and sheriffs must fall back on the thin blue line that binds them: the honor of their oath to protect the American citizenry.
ICE officers and sheriffs need to communicate in a timely manner and share information. As seen in the tragic example of Kate Steinle's murder, the sheriff did not alert ICE of her alleged murderer Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez' pending release. Alternatively, sheriffs can cite cases where ICE officers did not share information regarding an alien in their custody, including intel regarding the alien's affiliations and violent history. We must fix this.
Unfortunately, both leading political parties continue to talk a good-game, while failing to commit the funding needed for ICE and Customs & Border Protection to effectively capture, deport, and keep out violent aliens.
In the spirit of "One team, one fight," DHS Deputy Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and National Sheriffs Association (NSA) Executive Director Jon Thompson convened a meeting on July 21 with DHS officials and sheriffs to discuss concerns associated with violent aliens and immigration detainer requests. Setting aside the concerns that would require a miraculous legislative fix, the discussion focused on operational issues. All parties present recognized that the communication issue required an equal buy-in from ICE and sheriffs. DHS acknowledged the legal liability concerns of the sheriffs and asked that ICE be notified in a timely manner of a violent alien's release. The sheriffs countered that there have been instances where they notified ICE and no one came to take custody of the alien.
CBP Commissioner Gil Kerlikowske pledged the support of his law enforcement assets to assist ICE-ERO Director Tom Homan's officers in responding to these notifications. Mayorkas also acknowledged that DHS needed to do a better job supporting the sheriffs with communication to their constituents.
The meeting did not result in a comprehensive remedy to all immigration-related problems, but it did prompt much needed constructive dialogue that I expect will continue. We owe it to Kate Steinle to end the feud between ICE and sheriffs and work together to protect the American citizenry.
Jon Adler is president of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association (FLEOA).