Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis told a top U.S. Department of Justice official this week his suggestion that federal crime-fighting assistance for the city is contingent on local policies for immigrant detainees was "perplexing," given the city does not control its jail.
Davis also said linking crime assistance to immigration policies is "concerning" and "sends the wrong message" to immigrant communities in Baltimore.
"Public safety depends on all communities, regardless of immigration status, having trust in law enforcement," Davis wrote. "Without this trust, immigrants may be less likely to communicate with the police, report crimes, or seek assistance upon becoming a victim."
Davis' comments, which came in a two-page letter to the Justice Department dated Monday, echoed those he and other city officials made this month after Acting Assistant Attorney General Alan Hanson wrote to Davis about the city's immigration policies.
In his Aug. 2 letter, Hanson posed three questions relating to whether city statutes provide U.S. Department of Homeland Security officials with information on and access to immigrant detainees in the city. The letter appeared to make Baltimore's selection as a grant recipient under the Justice Department's expanding Public Safety Partnership program contingent on such information and access being granted.
The Trump administration has backed having local law enforcement play a supporting role for federal immigration officials, and criticized local jurisdictions that buck the trend.
Hanson wrote that Baltimore was otherwise eligible for assistance under the partnership program, which provides training and technical assistance to law enforcement in cities with above average violent crime levels.
Many in Maryland scoffed at Hanson's letter because the state, not the city, operates the Baltimore jail, giving the city no control over jail access and inmate information. In his letter Monday, Davis told Hanson he was "unable to provide an answer" to Hanson's questions because of that lack of control.
Davis also said he would like Justice assistance in fighting crime, but believes the immigration policies suggested by Hanson would represent "a step in the wrong direction."
Davis did not mention the fact that they may also run afoul of the law, at least according to Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh.
Frosh has issued an opinion that honoring requests by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to hold individuals suspected of immigration violations for up to 48 hours after they're scheduled to be released could violate those individuals' constitutional rights. Hanson specifically asked about such requests in his letter to Davis.