- Not enactedThe President has not signed this bill
- The house has not voted
- The senate has not voted
Committee on the JudiciaryIntroducedJuly 17th, 2019
- senate Committees
What is Senate Bill S. 2151?
Cost of Senate Bill S. 2151
In-Depth: Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), a candidate for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, introduced this bill to prohibit ICE and CBP officers from wearing clothing displaying the word “police”:
“This administration continues to ruthlessly and cruelly inflict fear and panic on immigrant communities across this country. When ICE agents display the word “police” on their uniforms, they blur the line between local law enforcement and immigration agents and confuse immigrant communities. These misleading interactions erode trust between local law enforcement and the communities they’re supposed to protect, and make it less likely that immigrants will report a crime because they fear deportation. Local law enforcement officers are here to protect and serve, not arrest and deport. It’s important we make that distinction clear.”
Rep. Nydia Velázquez (D-NY), who first introduced this bill in the House, says it’s needed to ensure federal immigration officials can’t misidentify as police:
“When federal immigration officials misidentify as police, it creates distrust between immigrant communities and local law enforcement. This, in turn, means real crimes go unreported and witnesses are less likely to step forward, making all of us less safe. The legislation we’ve authored will prevent ICE and CBP from misleading immigrants into thinking they are local police officers and I’m pleased Senator Booker has joined me in this effort.”
The New Jersey Urban Association supports this bill. Its president, Bridgeton Mayor Albert Kelly, says:
“Local officials and municipal leaders have worked diligently to strengthen community relationships with police. When ICE officers’ uniforms mimic police it negatively affects this work. We need to ensure that our residents can determine the difference between ICE officers and police, therefore changing their uniforms is absolutely necessary.”
Therese R. Rodriguez, CEO of Apicha Community Health Centers, adds that blurring the line between ICE officers and police hurts the broader community:
“The potential lack of distinction between ICE agents and the local police force creates confusion and distrust of local police not only among immigrants, but among our neighbors, the churches, and our schools. This fear and fracture in trust spills into every public institution—an effect that runs contrary to New York’s status as a sanctuary state. At Apicha Community Health Center, we see the result. We aim to provide all New Yorkers a safe space where they can get the health services they need. Currently, there are people who need our services who might be afraid to walk through our doors. We believe creating a clear distinction between local police and ICE agents will improve safety, trust, and unity.”
ICE-ERO says that ICE agents and officers may initially identify themselves as “police” during an encounter because that is the universally-recognized term for law enforcement. ICE-ERO says:
“In the often dangerous law enforcement arena, being able to immediately identify yourself as law enforcement may be a life-or-death issue. However, ICE-issued uniforms and jackets also display ‘ICE’ to indicate the specific law enforcement agency being represented.”
In 2017, ICE spokeswoman Sarah Rodriguez also contended that it’s accurate to call ICE officers police because “It's clear that we are a law enforcement agency. We have police authority."
ICE officers’ training manuals and policy notices explicitly allow and encourage agents’ use of ruses, including declaring themselves as police. In 2017, ICE spokeswoman Virginia Kice declined to comment specifically on the use of ruses, but said that agents’ tactics “are consistent with their authorities under federal law and in accordance with the Constitution.”
The courts have long upheld police’s right to mislead suspects during investigations and interrogations, up to a point. However, legal questions around immigration agents’ use of ruses are more complicated. Because ICE agents generally don’t have search or arrest warrants when they try to detain someone on suspicion of being in the U.S. illegally, they can’t force their way into someone’s home and have to receive consent from an adult to enter. In a few cases in which ICE agents have used deception to gain entry and then arrested someone, lawyers have successfully argued that the ruses violated the Constitution’s protections.
Nancy Morawetz, a professor of clinical law and an immigration expert at NYU School of Law, says that although existing case law allows federal law enforcement agents to use ruses, she doesn’t believe it’s clearly legal for a federal officer to masquerade as a local one. She explains, “What ICE is doing is saying ‘Oh, it’s all the same question. If law enforcement can use ruses, then any ruse is an option.” However, she takes a different view: “There is a pretty strong argument, I think, that it is impersonating a police officer” — a felony charge in the state of New York.
However, in an implicit rebuke of this legislation, which addresses this issue at the federal level, Moraetz believes that state and local governments and agencies are best-positioned to push back on ICE’s misrepresentation of officers. She says, “I think if local law enforcement protested to [the Department of Homeland Security], they would get results.”
This legislation doesn’t have any Senate cosponsors but has the support of a number of immigration advocacy groups. Its House companion, sponsored by Rep. Nydia Velázquez (D-NY), has 22 Democratic House cosponsors. Neither bill has received a committee vote.
Of Note: In 2017, California Governor Jerry Brown (D) signed a bill, AB 1440, into law prohibiting ICE agents and CBP officers from identifying themselves as police. When Gov. Brown signed the bill, its author, California Assemblyman Ash Kalra (D-San Jose), said:
“I am pleased that Gov. Brown has signed [this bill] into law, upholding the trust and faith our local law enforcement work to develop with local communities every day to provide for the public’s safety. Under the [Trump] administration, ICE and CBP are undertaking unprecedented and aggressive tactics to identify, monitor, and detain undocumented immigrants for deportation. This [law] sends a clear message – that in California, law enforcement officers are sworn to protect all residents, regardless of their immigration status… [A]s California and the rest of the nation enter into a new reality of aggressive and, at times, deceitful actions undertaken to enforce immigration actionsCalifornia must take any and all necessary actions to disassociate the actions of federal ICE agents with those of licensed state and local peace officers.”
The Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights supported AB 1440. Its policy advocate, Christopher Sanchez, said, “To have ICE deceive our communities that they are police officers only creates greater mistrust between law enforcement and the immigrant community.”
According to the California Assembly when it considered AB 1440, ICE agents have claimed to be police officers in order to gain consent to enter people’s homes — a tactic that’s viewed as unethical, but within officers' powers. In 2017 the Los Angeles Times reported that iImmigrant rights attorneys and advocates argue that portraying themselves as police is a ruse ICE agents use to “ensnare people or fool them into revealing the whereabouts of family members.”
In 2017, Frances Miriam Kreimer, senior attorney at Dolores Street Community Services in San Francisco, said, “There is something fundamentally unfair about ICE exploiting local and state policies that are trying to improve public safety by promoting immigrants’ trust in law enforcement.”
- Sponsoring Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) Press Release
- House Sponsor Rep. Nydia Velázquez (D-NY) Press Release
- New Jersey 101.5
- Los Angeles Times (Context)
- The Daily Beast (Context)
Summary by Lorelei Yang(Photo Credit: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement on Flickr)