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Judge orders Milwaukee County Sheriff to turn over records to immigrant rights group

Judge David Borowski on June 3 ordered Milwaukee County Sheriff David A. Clarke Jr. to provide un-redacted information about people his department turned over to federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement for deportation.

The order was made in an open records lawsuit filed by Voces de la Frontera.

And, according to the immigrant rights group, Clarke must respond to the order within 48 hours.

Borowoski, according to Voces, cited Wisconsin's long history of government in the sunshine, with blue-sky laws that favor citizens' ability to review the actions of government officials.

Voces de la Frontera filed an open records request with the sheriff's office in February. The group was seeking copies of forms I-247s from ICE asking local jails to hold people otherwise set for release for possible deportation. Voces said the program, Secure Communities, was ended by the Department of Homeland Security's security last fall.

The sheriff's office did not turn over the forms promptly. And, when Voces challenged the department, it received records with critical information redacted. Voces said that information would have shown whether the sheriff was complying with new enforcement policies.

“So many people get detained and placed in deportation and no one knows about it,” said Antonio Ávila, a Voces de la Frontera member. “Now we will know who these people are, we will be able to contact them to support them and their families, and to help them fight their deportation. As an immigrant I feel safer now.”

“This is a victory for the people of Wisconsin and immigrant families in particular,” said Christine Neumann-Ortiz, executive director of Voces de la Frontera. “For too long, Sheriff Clarke has shown a glaring disregard for the rights and dignity of immigrant families in our community. He will no longer be able to carry out what have been up to now secret deportations without community oversight and accountability. This information is part of our civil rights organizing to hold Sheriff Clarke accountable to the rights of immigrants, identify and reach out to individuals impacted by these laws to bring their story to light and fight their deportation, and go to court if necessary.”

She continued,  “This type of community oversight should expand to other counties in Wisconsin. We believe that Immigration should not be entangled with local law enforcement because it violates people’s civil rights and discourages immigrants from reporting crimes,” continued Neumann-Ortiz. “Even so, we know there will be further changes under these new national enforcement priorities, and immigrant community organizations need to have a voice at the table when local law enforcement meets with ICE about these changes.”

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