The District of Columbia is picking a fight with Arizona, and another with the federal government, over immigration.
All 13 members of the DC City Council are sponsoring a non-binding bill that would urge the District to stop doing business with Arizona. Councilmember Michael A. Brown's bill calls on the DC government and Retirement Board to divest themselves from any municipal bonds issued by Arizona, and not to pay for anyone to participate in conferences held in the state.
From Brown's press release:
"Today we will encourage the government of the District of Columbia to express its disgust for this discriminatory law," said Councilmember Michael A. Brown. "We will encourage the District to use the power of the dollar to fight against policies that institutionalize racial profiling and inequality of any American citizen. The last time a law required citizens to carry "papers" was during American era of slavery"
In perhaps a more aggressive move, members are attempting to ban DC's police chief from sharing arrest records with federal immigration authorities.
Councilmember Phil Mendelson, who chairs the Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary, is proposing the ban in his own, separate bill, which is also supporter by all 13 members. That bill, unlike the Arizona divestiture resolution, would be binding.
This may seem an unwise move, given that DC has a significant international gang presence--including the Salvadorian gang MS-13, for which Northern Virginia is considered a national epicenter. Federal officials at Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) work with local law enforcement to crack down on international gangs through a program that began in 2005. Gang investigation and prosecution sometimes, but not always, involves obtaining arrest records from local police, according to an ICE official.
The bill was introduced, in part, as a response to a broader cooperation program between ICE and local law enforcers, called Secure Communities.
When asked if he was concerned whether the bill would negatively impact anti-gang cooperation, Mendelson said, in a statement provided through his office, "No, this legislation has no effect on the federal government's authority. But the evidence suggests 'Secure Communities' hurts community policing."
It's a nationwide program that rests on cooperation with local law enforcement. Records like fingerprints--anything obtained when a person is taken into custody--are shared with federal authorities. ICE suggests that the biometric data cuts down on allegations of racial profiling. Secure Communities is identified online as an "integrated approach to identify and remove criminal aliens."
DC has been participating in the program.
ICE wouldn't comment on Mendelson's bill, but spokeswoman Cori Bassett said that "We have a good working relationship with the Metro Police Department."
UPDATE: ICE spokeswoman Cori Bassett gave this response to the bill:
The support and cooperation of our local law enforcement partners is critical to enabling ICE to target high risk convicted criminal aliens who present the greatest risk to the security of our communities. Intergovernmental collaboration is key to our success in removing these aliens from the country.
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Chris Good is a political reporter for ABC News. He was previously an associate editor at The Atlantic and a reporter for The Hill.