National Fraternal Order of Police Senior Legislative Liaison Tim Richardson and Sergeant Sean Mattson, President of the Phoenix Police Sergeants and Lieutenants Association, represented the FOP at a meeting with law enforcement stakeholders at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in Washington DC to discuss the Priority Enforcement Program, which makes changes to the nation’s immigration enforcement strategies. The FOP was the only rank-and-file group invited to participate in the meeting and Sgt. Mattson was the only active duty rank-and-file officer that participated. He was able to share with DHS staff how local agencies operated under the Secure Communities program and offered insights on improving federal agency interaction with local law enforcement.
Stakeholder Meeting Report by Sean Mattson
On December 11, 2014, I represented FOP Membership in Washington DC at the Stakeholder Meeting on Executive Actions on Immigration reform. Specifically the DHS memoranda entitled, “Secure Communities” and “Policies for the Apprehension, Detention, and Removal of Undocumented Immigrants”.
The meeting consisted of the DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson, Assistant Secretary Heather Fong and about 20 other officials from ICE, the state department, IACP, Major Cities Group, The DHS Office of Civil Liberties, and other stakeholders/legal counsel.
FOP Lobbyists Jim Pasco and Tim Richardson held a pre-briefing at the FOP National Legislative Office. The hard work by Jim Pasco and his crew was evident and ensures that the voice of the men and women of the FOP gets heard on Capitol Hill. It was comforting and inspiring to know that we have such good folks that are the tip of the legislative spear in DC.
Assistant Secretary Fong conduced the immigration meeting at DHS. She opened the meeting by assuring us that the reason the meeting was called was to ensure that open and honest dialog occurred to enable the most effective roll out of the new plan – “Secure Communities.” Secretary Fong then turned the meeting over to ICE Deputy Executive Associate Director Tim Robbins who briefed us on the new protocol as outlined in the two memoranda.
As discussed during the meeting, there are currently an estimated 5,700 ICE Agents to enforce immigration violations on 10-12 million illegal immigrants living in the US. It is a difficult task to try to enforce such a large population with such limited resources. As a result, the administration has decided to prioritize enforcement to accomplish two major strategies:
- Secure the Borders
- Public Safety
As explained during the meeting, while the changes concern reprioritizing operations, there will be very few changes to ICE operations proceeding forward and even fewer, if any, for officers at the county, state and local levels. We were told the old operations for deportation measured criminal charges, however, the new standards are based off of convictions. Also, the fact that an illegal immigrant had committed a felony classified their enforcement prioritization as a “Level 2 (old system)”, but in the new system a felon will be classified as “Priority 1.”
Director Robbins insisted that the intention is not to shift the workload onto local law enforcement, and recognized that better communication and trust exists between local law enforcement and the community. Director Robbins wanted to assure the group that ICE does not want to interfere with that trust and stands at the ready to help local, county and state agencies remove the worst of the worst from their communities. Director Robbins said to think of the new philosophy as not enforcing immigration laws but implementing a process to remove criminals.
The new “Priorities” as illustrated in the memorandum titled, “Policies for the Apprehension, Detention, and Removal of Undocumented Immigrants” are as follows:
- Aliens apprehended at the border
- Gang members
- Convicted felons
- Three or more misdemeanor convictions (three incidents)
- Any conviction of a “significant misdemeanor” – defined in the memorandum
- Illegally entered the country after 1/1/14
- Individuals who have abused their visa
- Aliens who have failed to comply with the final order of removal on/after 1/1/14
- All other Aliens
Secretary Fong allowed for much free talk and encouraged everyone at the table to state their criticisms. She was genuine and appreciated all of the feedback that surfaced at the table. The group talked about communications getting lost between the feds and local jurisdictions on roll out of programs like these. Most jurisdictions agree with the concepts of the removal of sex offenders, and violent felons from their streets. Where you begin to loose many (not all) local agencies is when enforcement deteriorates the community’s trust in their local law enforcement group to enforce civil laws.
The DHS representatives requested that policy makers and agency heads adopt operational plans and policies to fit their own specific organizational priorities. Furthermore, DHS fully recognizes that there are politics, community involvement and organizational discretion when it comes to development and implementation of agency directives in regards to immigration and the process by which each agency deals with the criminal element of their jurisdiction.
DHS and ICE wanted to let everyone at the table know that they stand at the ready to be used as a tool to assist in the removal of the criminal element of our communities, and would appreciate any cooperation local law groups could provide if an ICE agent contacts them as a follow-up from their high priority cases.
Sean Mattson, President
Phoenix Police Sergeants and Lieutenants Association