Metro weighs in on ‘sanctuary city’ controversy

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Ever since 32-year-old Kathryn Steinle was allegedly killed by an undocumented immigrant as she walked along a San Francisco pier, cities across the nation that offer sanctuary to immigrants have been under scrutiny. 

Jim Steinle, Kate’s father, spoke out against the “legal loopholes” that allowed the suspect who killed his daughter to be free despite a rap sheet that included seven felonies and five past deportations.  He urged lawmakers to consider changes to the country’s immigration laws to more effectively get criminal felons off the streets.

Last July, Metro Police announced it will no longer detain immigrants under a federal agency’s request without a warrant or probable cause.  Many people think this stance will make Las Vegas a sanctuary city, but Metro Police disagrees.

“Some cities that bear that title have passed ordinances that prohibit law enforcement from working with ICE or working with the federal government. We have not passed any laws or ordinances in that regard,” said Chuck Callaway, Intergovernmental Services, Metro Police.

Metro said it did, however, implement a policy limiting its relationship with federal agencies including the immigration and customs enforcement known as ICE.  The changes were brought forward by former Clar County Sheriff Doug Gillespie. 

According to Metro, the policy is also supported by current Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo.

“We don’t want to adhere to a policy or adhere to a procedure that could potentially jeopardize someone’s constitutional rights,” Callaway said.

Metro’s decision to stop detaining undocumented immigrants who are eligible for bail came right after a federal court case ruling in Oregon that dealt with the same issue.  The judge ruled it was unconstitutional for local law enforcement agencies to hold immigrants based on a request by ICE.

“I think that we should be working with the police and immigrant community to maintain trust and make sure ICE is doing its job and focusing on removing people who are dangerous and violent,” said Laura Martin, Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada.

Metro says since the policy changes took effect last July, it’s had little impact on daily operations.
   
“We need to balance the need to protect the community and the need to partner with the community,” Callaway said.

Metro says it hasn’t completely cut ties with ICE.  It has a jail-based program where officers share information about undocumented inmates with federal agents.

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