Philly’s new police commissioner has both defended and ended ICE partnerships

In mid-2016, a day before the Oakland, Calif., police chief resigned amid scandal, he signed off on an agreement allowing the city’s police officers to partner with federal immigration officials in investigations involving human trafficking, narcotics smuggling, and gang activity.

A year later, though, Donald Trump was president, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement was under fire, and advocates urged officials in Oakland — a “sanctuary city,” similar to Philadelphia — to cancel the arrangement for fear that it led to data-sharing with ICE and undermined immigrants’ trust in police.

Defending the agreement was Danielle Outlaw, then the deputy chief of police in Oakland. She told a city committee in 2017 that although the police valued the city’s policy to not cooperate with ICE on immigration enforcement, their partnership was with Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), an arm of ICE separate from the agency’s enforcement and deportation operations. The agreement, Outlaw said, allowed her department “to have that federal arm and to have that transnational piece that we just, as a local municipal agency, do not have access to.”

Her defense didn’t matter in the end. Oakland officials rescinded the agreement.

On Tuesday, Outlaw was named the next commissioner of the Philadelphia Police Department, which, like the Oakland police — and Oregon, where Outlaw ran the Portland Police Bureau beginning in late 2017 — does not comply with ICE requests to detain undocumented immigrants without a signed judicial arrest warrant as part of its status as a sanctuary city.

Although Outlaw defended the Oakland agreement with ICE in 2017, advocates for rescinding it didn’t accuse the department of violating sanctuary policy.

Philadelphia, which has been described as one of the most “determined” sanctuary cities, has been proactive in severing ties with ICE. Still, police here also have a “longtime working relationship with ICE,” similar to Oakland’s former partnership, where several officers can be designated to conduct narcotics investigations, city spokesperson Deana Gamble said. The city doesn’t expect that arrangement to change.

She added that HSI is “completely separate and apart from immigration enforcement.” Earlier this year, HSI hosted a joint news conference with local law enforcement officials to announce the seizure of more than a billion dollars’ worth of cocaine at the Port of Philadelphia in one of the largest drug busts in U.S. history.

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