By Jeff Pederson
for The Beacon
The Sheboygan County Sheriff’s Department is preparing to train deputies to hasten the deportation process of undocumented individuals incarcerated at county facilities.
According to Sheriff Corey Roeseler, the Warrant Service Officer (WSO) agreement permits his deputies to serve federal detainer papers on prisoners instead of relying on Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents. Roeseler said the agreement will streamline the deportation process and could be rolled out within months.
“It’s strictly for (an undocumented person) confined to the detention center who has committed a crime,” Roeseler said in reference to the WSO agreement.
Roeseler said low-level misdemeanors wouldn’t likely trigger the policy.
But for felonies and repeat offenders, Roeseler said he intends to implement the option.
However, some critics of the program say it will damage relationships between Sheboygan’s police and immigrant communities, complicating the effort to police and keep people safe.
Roeseler said he believes the program’s benefits outweigh its potential drawbacks.
“I think it’s in the best interest of society,” Roeseler said. “…I think folks need to educate themselves that (the WSO agreement is) not dealing with people in our county making an honest living. We’re talking about people who come … to commit crimes.”
The sheriff told The Plymouth Review last autumn that he planned to pursue the program. At that time, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin said he predicted a chilling effect would be felt within Sheboygan’s immigrant communities.
He pointed to other jurisdictions around the country who’ve adopted the WSO, or similar, agreements with ICE.
“Other jurisdictions … do show a drop-off in reporting in crime, like reporting domestic abuse violence incidents,” Tim Muth, ACLU of Wisconsin attorney, said. “The immigration community becomes fearful of reporting crimes, of going into the Sheboygan County Courthouse secured by county deputies, because they’re aware some are ICE agents even if they’re only working in the jail,” Muth said. “So you create this added distrust between the immigrant community and the sheriff’s department.”
Following Roeseler’s adoption of the WSO, the ACLU of Wisconsin condemned the sheriff’s decision, saying it makes “immigrant communities less likely to communicate and cooperate with local authorities, and could discourage people from seeking needed medical help.”
“This agreement will only heighten the sense of fear and insecurity that is unfortunately already felt by many immigrants living in Wisconsin — and it won’t make the public any safer,” said ACLU of Wisconsin Executive Director Chris Ott in an April 1 release. “ICE has induced a number of local sheriffs across the country to enter these agreements, and it has proven to do nothing except harm and destabilize our communities.
Sheboygan County is among two counties in Wisconsin to have a similar agreement with ICE. The Waukesha County Sheriff’s Office entered into a Jail Enforcement Model agreement.
Both types of agreements are subsets of section 287(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act.
ICE said the 287(g) program “encountered approximately 775 aliens convicted for assault, 704 convicted for dangerous drugs, 145 convicted for sex offenses/assaults, 173 convicted for obstructing police, 110 convicted for weapon offenses, and 21 convicted for homicide” during fiscal year 2019.