The Roeland Park City Council is considering an ordinance that would prevent Immigration and Customs Enforcement from using city resources for immigration enforcement.
The proposal was presented by the American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas as part of their “Safe and Welcoming” campaign at a city council meeting earlier this month.
“What we are suggesting is that cities can actually write policy that says they will not be coordinating with ICE,” Kansas ACLU Policy Director Letitia Harmon said.
The proposed noncompliance policy means Roeland Park would not sign an agreement that allows ICE to supervise officers trained in immigration law and gives the organization access to vehicles, arrest data and other supplies.
According to statistics from ICE’s website, 79 municipalities in 21 states have signed agreements with ICE. So far, no cities or counties in Kansas or Missouri are included.
Roeland Park Mayor Mike Kelly said an agreement with ICE could take away resources from local law enforcement. He said the noncompliance ordinance would allow local police to focus on the city’s concerns rather than immigration enforcement.
“We think it’s a good opportunity for Roeland Park,” Mayor Kelly said. “We get to put our limited Roeland Park resources towards our local priorities.”
The noncompliance policy would limit ICE’s ability to collaborate with the city, but Harmon said that it would not qualify Roeland Park as a so-called sanctuary city.
The term has no set definition, but Harmon said sanctuary cities are understood to be out of compliance with federal law. This policy, she said, is fully legal.
However, Mark Krikorian, the executive director of the conservative think tank The Center for Immigration Studies, said sanctuary cities are defined as any municipality that limits their interaction with ICE.
“A sanctuary city is essentially one that does not honor ICE detainers, and there’s bunch of different ways you can do that,” Krikorian said. “What it boils down to is intentionally refusing to cooperate with ICE.”
Associate Professor Gary Reich of the political science department at the University of Kansas also said refusing to detain residents for ICE is the generally accepted definition of a sanctuary city. Though according to Reich, it is the city’s right to do so.
“It creates a lot of legal jeopardy for counties and cities when they honor these requests,” Reich said. “Federal courts have ruled that there is grounds for cities to ignore these requests and the problem has to do with due process.”
Reich said the detainer requests are often unaccompanied by arrest warrants or probable cause, which he said has resulted in wrongful arrests.
“The problem that’s specific with these is you’re really running up against the Fourth and Fifth Amendments,” Reich said. “There’s no probable cause for arrest, there’s also no notice given to individuals and there’s no legal means for them to challenge once they get detained by ICE.”
In her presentation to Roeland Park City Council last week, Harmon said the noncompliance policy includes a refusal to detain residents for ICE.
Roeland Park councilmembers will vote on the proposal in October.
Avery Gott is an intern at KCUR.