Ohio ACLU, Lorain Police Chief condemn Trump administration's immigration policies

Posted at 3:56 PM, Aug 10, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-10 17:14:10-04

The City of Chicago announced Monday it is suing the Department of Justice for forcing it to enforce what it says is unfair federal immigration laws.

Thursday, the ACLU of Ohio and the Lorain Police Chief made arguments for why they say the DOJ has overstepped. The Department of Justice has threatened to withhold federal funds for police departments if they don’t comply with the new federal immigration rules.

“Telling sanctuary cities, as defined by them, that they’re not going to fund us for public safety, doesn’t increase public safety and it doesn’t fix the broken immigration system,” said Lorain Police Chief Sal Rivera.

In 2013, Rivera re-wrote Lorain’s policing policy to eliminate racial profiling based on immigration.

“We don’t stop, or detain, or arrest people based solely on their status,” he said.

Rivera spoke to a crowd at the ACLU of Ohio Thursday about why Lorain has it right and why his department won’t enforce President Trump’s new immigration policies.

“You don’t decide to stop somebody because they look like they’re farm workers or they look like they’re undocumented,” he said.

But that’s exactly what the Trump administration is asking city police departments to do. He repealed the priority enforcement program, put in place by the Obama administration, that instructed Immigration and Customs Enforcement to target only violent criminals, threats to national security and the most recent border crossers. Now, as Rivera says, everyone, including non-criminal families living in the U.S. for decades, is fair game.

“It was one of the most fearful days of my life because I had my kids in school, I didn’t know if I was going to be able to see them again,” said a Mexican immigrant who spoke to the same crowd at the ACLU. “Every time that I was taking my kids to school, if I see a police officer behind me, I would say duck down, don’t breathe, I was panicking, my kids were very afraid of police officers."

Rivera says it’s that fear he doesn’t want preventing his department from doing their best work.

“We’re not federal law enforcement officers. I didn’t join the Lorain Police Department to be an immigration officer, I joined the Lorain Police Department so I can serve the community of Lorain,” he said.

In Lorain, hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal grant money could be at stake if withheld by the Department of Justice.