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Police speak out for—and against—enforcing immigration laws.

In January 2017, President Trump signed an executive order empowering state and local law enforcement agencies to perform the functions of immigration officers to the maximum extent of the law.Exec. Order No. 13768, 3 C.F.R. 8799 (2017). The order also threatened to deny federal funding to cities that failed to cooperate.Exec. Order No. 13768, 3 C.F.R. 8799 (2017). at 8801

The executive order was issued in response to so-called “sanctuary cities”—those jurisdictions that have policies or practices that protect illegal immigrants from federal enforcement efforts. In response, 63 police chiefs and sheriffs issued a letter in March 2017 expressing opposition to having their local agencies be required to enforce federal immigration laws and objecting to the defunding of sanctuary cities.Tom Jackman, “Police Chiefs’ Immigration Task Force Outlines Opposition to Trump Policy,” Washington Post, March 1, 2017.  The signatories said that requiring local police to serve in an immigration enforcement capacity would damage relationships with communities and adversely impact community-oriented policing tactics, in addition to taxing already-scant resources.Exec. Order No. 13768, 3 C.F.R. 8799 (2017).  Other police leaders have noted that public safety depends on residents’ willingness to report crime and serve as witnesses, which is undermined when they are made to fear contacting local police because it might lead to their deportation or the deportation of a loved one.Timothy Williams and Richard A. Oppel, Jr., “Police Chiefs Say Trump’s Law Enforcement Priorities Are Out of Step,” New York Times, February 12, 2017David Pughes and Art Acevedo, “Texas Police Chiefs: Do Not Burden Local Officers with Federal Immigration Enforcement,” Dallas News, April 28, 2017; and Aaron Katersky, “NYC Police Head Reminds Officers Not to Help in Deporting Immigrants Unless Public Safety at Risk,” ABC, February 23, 2017.

Some law enforcement leaders, however, have publicly announced that they oppose sanctuary laws and declared their desire to assist federal authorities in enforcing immigration laws.Jazmine Ulloa, “Most California Sheriffs Fiercely Opposed the ‘Sanctuary State’ Law. Soon They’ll Have to Implement It,” Los Angeles Times, November 12, 2017; and Caitlin Dickerson, “A Sheriff’s Bind: Cross the White House, or the Courts,” New York Times, September 13, 2017.