Blog Post: Open Channels of Collaboration Between Local Law Enforcement Agencies and The Federal Government
December 15, 2023
Law Enforcement Immigration Task Force Blog
On October 13, members of the Law Enforcement Immigration Task Force (LEITF) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) met in San Diego, CA. The LEITF aims to create a channel of communication between local law enforcement agencies and the federal government to work on shared issues related to reforming our county’s broken and outdated immigration system. Through discussions between the LEITF members and DHS, this goal was thoroughly accomplished at the meeting.
Four DHS guest speakers presented to our LEITF members on a variety of topics during the meeting. LEITF’s chiefs and sheriffs were presented with information about the Law Enforcement Support Center (LESC), the DHS Science and Technology Directorate, the Center for Countering Human Trafficking, and updates on the U.S. – Mexico Border dynamics and challenges.
The presentation about the LESC provided chiefs and sheriffs with information and tools related to community safety. The LESC is a part of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Enforcement and Removal Operation. One example of the LESC’s ability to assist local law enforcement departments is through providing additional aid and data for background checks. The LESC has the capability to check biometrics, collect background checks from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and help gather additional information that may be helpful to law enforcement officers.
Similarly, the DHS Science and Technology Directorate offers law enforcement members resources and tools to help keep their community safe. For example, the DHS’s SAVER program creates reports similar to consumer reports for the U.S. government by evaluating technology in the operational environment. These reports are available for anyone looking to compare existing technology. Specifically, local law enforcement can utilize product reports when researching technology they are interested in acquiring for their departments.
Another DHS speaker presented on an omnipresent issue that affects all communities: human trafficking. In 2020, the Center for Countering Human Trafficking was created at DHS. The center trains law enforcement agencies across the country and around the world to recognize the indicators of human trafficking. Human trafficking is often confused with human smuggling, which is a transportation-based crime. Trafficking is to force or compel someone into commercial sex or labor trafficking. The Center educates law enforcement agencies about how to take a victim-centered approach, by treating everyone like victims unless there is an underlying crime. According to DHS officials, this approach helps with providing an environment that will allow victims to recover and thrive.
One law enforcement official mentioned during the meeting that some residents in his community conflict smuggling with trafficking. The official appreciated the resources provided by the center to help dispel the myth that there is a lot of “trafficking” at the border, when it is really smuggling.
In addition to the informative presentations from DHS guest speakers, one speaker opted to open the floor to the chiefs and sheriffs for questions about the state of the U.S.-Mexico border. Some highlights from this open discussion were:
Sheriff Robert Luna (Los Angeles County, CA) asked about the influx of migrants in recent months. A discussion ensued about the complexity and fluidity of the border environment. The U.S.-Mexico border does not only involve two countries, with two different languages. Rather, the southern border is a complicated international front. The southern border is also marred with issues of transitional criminal organizations that exploit vulnerable migrant populations trying to reach safety.
Chief Ramon Batista (Santa Monica, CA) added the importance of continued interagency collaboration to better understand migratory trends and to help communities best prepare for the arrival of new immigrants. In addition, Chief Batista stressed the importance of continued conversations by the LEITF at the Federal level to address both border security and more importantly to reform our outdated national immigration laws. Chief Batista emphasized the importance of strengthening the relationships with immigrants in an effort to make our cities and communities safer.
Chief Niel Noakes (Fort Worth, TX) mentioned the Special Legislative Session that took place throughout October in his home state of Texas. The Texas state legislature passed a bill to create a state law that addresses unlawful immigration. The discussion that ensued between the present LEITF members and DHS came to the conclusion that while some policy proposals may be good in theory, in practice they may not always work as intended. Local law enforcement agencies tend to have limited resources, and community safety is a priority. On the other hand, Customs and Border Patrol agents are better positioned to deal with the issue of unlawful immigration.
Chief Paco Balderrama (Fresno, CA) concluded this portion of the meeting very aptly when he said that he hopes this task force will be a voice of reason; “we can be humanitarians and enforce the law. There is a middle ground.”
Such interactions and dialogue play a fundamental role in finding new ways for the local and federal government to collaborate and alleviate shared issues related to immigration. The LEITF prioritizes these continued conversations between its members and officials at DHS to ensure that immigrants feel safe in their own communities and emphasize that the main role of law enforcement officers is centered around building trust and furthering healthy community relations.