The Berkeley City Council in California was recently faced with a policy change proposal to allow U.S. immigration officials to apply different detention rules to those who are arrested based on their legal citizenship status. The council unanimously decided that “The Berkeley Police Department will not honor requests [by ICE] to detain a Berkeley jail inmate for suspected violation of federal civil immigration law,” local news source Berkeleyside reported.
Berkeley is widely known to be a very liberal city, and officials there believe that the Secure Communities federal program is a very restrictive system that can cause alleged offenders to be held after arrest under circumstances where they would have otherwise been released. In certain cases, federal officials have even taken individuals into custody before their case was heard in a court of law, the source reported.
“Law enforcement should not be a party to immigration enforcement, with the exception of dangerous people,” Berkeley Police Chief Michael Meehan told the source. “The whole policy is aimed to prevent the release of violent offenders while balancing civil rights.”
Immigration advocates believe the council made a landmark policy decision in refusing to cooperate with a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement program that detains and deports non-citizens who are arrested. City officials have been working diligently to revise policies related to the Secure Communities program that automatically alerts the federal government when non-citizens are arrested and processed by the prison system.
The Secure Communities program has led to the deportation of approximately 80,000 undocumented immigrants statewide since its inception, but many still believe that the federal program is driven by national politics and its own agenda, Berkeleyside reported.
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