In the light of massive protests over President Donald Trump’s executive order tightening federal immigration laws, Racine Mayor John Dickert emphasized Monday that the Racine Police Department will not arrest people for being undocumented.
Trump issued the executive order last week, which established a policy of allowing state and local law enforcement agencies to “perform the functions of an immigration officer.”
While over 8,000 people in the state of Wisconsin are here illegally, per federal laws, the Racine Police Department is focused on arresting those who break state and local laws. Racine has not formally established itself as a Sanctuary City, which would require a proclamation and Council approval. There are also no city ordinances with regards to undocumented people.
However, Dickert and Racine Police Chief Art Howell have agreed to focus on arresting only people who violate state laws and local ordinances.
“It is not against state or city law to be undocumented,” he said. “The diversity of Racine’s population is one of its greatest strengths. The job of mayors is to protect our residents. Mine is no different. I will continue to protect our diversity by protecting our residents – all our residents.”
If someone is undocumented and is arrested in Racine County, the Racine County Jail provides a report to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) office. That report indicates the name of the person, the criminal charge and/or detainers, and the country of the person’s birth, according to officials with the Racine County Sheriff’s Department.
“I believe the query reports only the names of those people born in a country other than the US and incarcerated in the RCJ for a criminal offense and/or on a detainer,” said Lt. Steven Sikora, administrative lieutenant for the Racine County Sheriff’s Department. “What ICE does with this report is a question you would have to ask ICE.”
Learn more about how ICE apprehended, detained, and removed undocumented immigrants.
The U.S. Conference of Mayors reviewed the executive order Trump signed last week and found “that there is no legal authority for such actions” because the order directs local and state governments to “take part in immigration enforcement.” The group plans to meet with police chiefs, the Secretary of Homeland Security and the Attorney General to discuss the matter, according to a press release by Dickert.
“Our police department works hard to build and preserve trust with all the communities they serve, including immigrant communities. Immigrants residing in Racine must be able to trust both the PD and city government,” Dickert said.
Valeria Ruiz, who serves as an adult and youth organizer for Voces de la Frontera in Racine, applauded Dickert. The group advocates for people who are undocumented immigrants.
“It’s important to understand the relationship between the police, and undocumented people and the refugee community,” she said. “It’s one step closer to feeling safer.”
Ruiz also points to how the city’s policy on immigration allows for undocumented workers to come forward to report crimes.
“We want to create unity and support these police departments in creating safe communities,” Ruiz said. “We don’t want police departments to stop and deport people because it’s just a waste of time and money.”
But a number of residents living in Racine County don’t agree with Ruiz. Racine County Eye asked its readers for comments on Facebook. Here’s how they responded:
Justin Kumorkiewicz: “So enforcing laws that are already in place and building off of something that was started previously makes Trump a bad guy. In my opinion he’s doing the things he was voted into office for and cleaning up this country. If people want to come here legally and pay taxes and not be criminals please do. He’s enforcing what’s right bottom line.”
Rob Novak: “We can’t be a sanctuary city we have too much crap going on that we need to fix. I’m all for people coming to the U.S. but now there are laws. They had laws to begin with they just evolved. Every country was born on immigration, should we be like others and kill if Someone crosses the border? Do it legally.”
Ryan Hook: “I am in favor of attacking mercilessly any business employing and any landlord housing illegal aliens. Confiscation of property and businesses then sold or auctioned with the proceeds allocated to the immigration system to improve vetting and streamline the process to ease the suffering of people who right now take years to LAWFULLY immigrate here. Making the landscape inhospitable to those who would immigrate ILLEGALLY is key.”