Milwaukee delays vote to protect immigrants after cops caught collaborating with ICE

Milwaukee city leadership has continued to push back a vote on officially forbidding collaboration with ICE, and community organizations and local activists have kept up the pressure for months. Last month, a vote on November 14 was delayed. The next scheduled vote on ending collaboration with ICE is on December 12, and community and social justice organizations again plan to turn out to protest for a change in policy.

On September 26, over 200 people turned out to protest a last minute decision by the members of the Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission to cancel a crucial committee vote on the inclusion of new language in the Milwaukee Police Department Code of Conduct & Standard Operating Procedures, which would specifically disallow any officers from collaborating with Federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agents.

Just two days before the vote was to take place, on September 24, video footage was shared showing four cars full of MPD officers accompanying ICE as they arrested Milwaukee resident Jose Alejandro De la Cruz- Espinosa without a warrant. De la Cruz-Espinosa was in the car with his wife and two daughters when ICE and MPD boxed them in and proceeded to enter their vehicle illegally and drag them out. This is just one of the many illegal arrests and detentions that occur in Milwaukee at the hands of ICE and MPD and serves as an example of how local police departments around the country are actively terrorizing immigrant communities.

“This fear and mistrust of local law enforcement extends to children in these households who are living through a deportation of a parent or a raid. This is why the Fire & Police Commission members must vote to strengthen MPD policy against ICE collaboration,” said Christine Neumann-Ortiz, Executive Director of Voces de la Frontera, a Milwaukee based immigrant rights group with chapters across Wisconsin. Voces began lobbying the Fire and Police Commission for changes to the Milwaukee Police Code of Conduct in 2017 and it took two years to bring the proposed changes to a vote.

Before these events, both Mayor Tom Barrett and Police Chief Alfonso Morales publicly stated that neither the city of Milwaukee nor MPD would establish formal operational agreements with ICE. Contrary to these empty promises, the video footage shows MPD officers playing a prominent role in blocking in the family’s car and controlling the outraged crowd that had gathered. “We just happened to be driving by,” one officer said to explain the presence of three full squad cars and ten officers at the ICE raid.

Community outrage over the raid and canceled vote was swift. Voces had been hosting organizational meetings with local activist groups for weeks ahead of time, preparing to have a large and organized presence at the vote. When that vote was cancelled, organizations including the Party for Socialism and Liberation-Milwaukee, the ACLU, Milwaukee IWW, Jewish Voice for Peace, Milwaukee Democratic Socialists, and Black Leaders Organizing for Communities, turned out in force with banners, signs and chants demanding MPD end collaboration with ICE and the whole racist immigration system be dismantled. The direct action taken by these groups on behalf of working and oppressed people across the city has yielded results as politicians and police officials scramble to save themselves from the public relations onslaught. Mayor Barrett has already called for an official review of MPD’s involvement in the arrest and Chief Morales, who was conveniently out of town when the collaboration took place, has vowed to conduct such a review.

A second rally took place on October 3 where once again the vote was delayed. Instead, the commission discussed the potential re-appointment of incumbent Milwaukee Police Chief, Alfonso Morales, who made clear that he was strongly opposed to any alterations to MPD rules and regulations that would limit the ability of police to collaborate with other law enforcement agencies. Morales argued that such a policy change “does not reduce crime and it doesn’t reduce fear. A lot of the things that are discussed are with federal government and not with local police.”

In the meantime, it has been found out that De la Cruz-Espinoza was taken to a federal detention center in Dodge County, which is several hours away from the city. His family has only had limited contact with him at this point and they have yet to be shown a warrant for his arrest.

While we will continue to monitor the legal situation of our fellow resident and worker, we will also continue to mobilize to end ICE terror and MPD collaboration.

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