President Donald Trump’s attempt to bully local police that refuse to honor administrative detainers for immigrants has come to naught. In January 2017, Trump issued an executive order that, among other things, ordered the Department of Homeland Security to publish a weekly report on so-called “sanctuary cities” that refuse to honor Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) requests to hold immigrants for later detention by ICE. As of April 10th, the report has been suspended until further notice.
When the first report came out, it was so inaccurate as to not even be minimally useful to anyone, including the Trump administration. The report completely mischaracterized the policies of dozens of municipalities around the country. The report’s statistical section, which was supposed to “shame” police departments that did not cooperate, drew skepticism when Nassau County appeared to exceed New York City and San Francisco in its zeal to protect immigrants.
After the initial outcry about the reports, the Department of Homeland Security made changes. It appeared to have added and removed municipalities from the list based more on the political affiliations of the leaders of the city or county involved than on any objective statistical standard. Nassau County dropped off the list.
The very act of creating the blacklist also drew harsh criticism. Local police are not required to honor ICE detainers. The detainers are not issued by judges and carry no legal requirement to comply. Many governments refuse to honor them for anyone not charged with a crime to avoid public perceptions that the police function as auxiliaries to ICE. Refusal to honor the detainers has become a hallmark of good community policing practices. Critics wondered why it was a federal function to tell local cops how to do their jobs.
The bullying tactics of the new administration have not worked in rallying Congressional support for Trump’s policies or in intimidating the courts. Now they have also failed to coerce the police.