Friday, February 17, 2017

How Will Native Tribes Fight the Dakota Access Pipeline in Court?

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On Feb. 8 the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reversed course and issued an easement allowing the installation of the Dakota Access Pipeline under Lake Oahe in North Dakota. That decision followed a presidential memorandum indicating that construction and operation of the pipeline would be in the “national interest,” and set the stage for a final showdown over the pipeline’s fate.
In response, two Indian tribes, the Standing Rock and Cheyenne River Sioux, filed new motions to halt the pipeline’s construction and operation. After an initial hearing on those motions, the federal judge on the case allowed construction to proceed but will be considering the tribes’ claims before oil will pass through the pipeline under Lake Oahe. That means, unlike the voices of thousands who joined the Standing Rock Sioux tribe in protest against the pipeline, the next chapter of this fight will be argued by a few lawyers in the pin drop silence of a federal courtroom.
Although the details of those arguments will be complex, as a legal scholar focused on Native American law I see the case addressing an essential question at the heart of our legal system: namely, how does federal law and judicial process protect the fundamental values and structure of the Constitution?
The central issues in the case are now whether the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ approval of the pipeline and easement illegally interferes with the tribes’ religious beliefs and whether the corps adequately considered the tribes’ water and other treaty rights before issuing that approval.

Religious Freedom Restoration Act

According to the Cheyenne River Sioux tribe, oil running through the pipeline would represent the fulfillment of a generations-old prophesy, passed down through the oral traditions of tribal members, that warned of a Black Snake coming to defile the sacred waters necessary to maintain the tribes’ ceremonies. Beyond the environmental concerns often at the center of the pipeline protests, the tribe’s motion for an injunction squarely defines final authorization of the pipeline by the corps as an existential threat: destruction of the tribes’ religion and way of life.
One of the key legal questions in the North Dakota Access Pipeline case whether federal interests can supersede religious freedoms of native groups.vpickering/flickrCC BY-ND
The Constitution’s First Amendment guarantees the exercise of religion free from governmental interference. But the Supreme Court, in Lyng v. Northwest Indian Cemetery Protection Association, in 1988 upheld the Forest Service’s approval of a road across an area on federal land sacred to local tribes even while recognizing the road could have devastating effects on their religion.
Then in 1993, Congress enacted the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), which requires that the government demonstrate a compelling interest and use the least restrictive means to achieve that interest if its actions will substantially burden religious practice.
In other words, even if approving the Dakota Access Pipeline served a compelling governmental interest, RFRA may require the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to show that the pipeline easement under Lake Oahe would have the least impact on tribal religion. That approach would be consistent with the Supreme Court’s broad application of RFRA in a 2014 case not involving tribal interests or federal lands and may pose a significant challenge to the corps, which considered but rejected a different route that did not pose the same threat to the tribes.
Both the corps and company behind the Dakota Access Pipeline argue that the risk of spill from the pipeline is minimal and that the tribes failed to raise these religious concerns in a timely manner. In addition, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers contends that, consistent with the Lyng case, governmental action on federal land should not be restricted because of religious concerns raised by local tribes.
Thus, resolution of the case will turn upon whether the court recognizes the legitimacy of the tribal religious concerns and broadly applies RFRA or, instead, chooses to prioritize federal authority over federal land to the detriment of those concerns. The parties will argue whether the religious freedom issues support an injunction on Feb. 27.

Arbitrary or capricious decisions?

In addition to their religious concerns, the Sioux tribes challenge the corps’ decisions based on the rights they reserved in treaties made with the federal government in 1851 and 1868.
The Constitution recognizes treaties as the “supreme law of the land” and, according to a 2016 analysis done by the solicitor of the U.S. Department of the Interior, both the Standing Rock and Cheyenne River Sioux retain treaty-reserved water, hunting and fishing rights in Lake Oahe.
The pipeline company has argued that the risks to the water supply are minimal and that the tribes didn’t raise religious concerns earlier in the approval process. diversey/flickrCC BY-NC-SA
Before reversing course in February, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers refused to issue the easement last year in order to further understand and analyze those treaty rights.
Importantly, federal law generally allows courts to set aside arbitrary or capricious agency decisions. In a Feb. 14 filing, the Standing Rock Sioux tribe asks the court to review the corps’ about-face under that standard and argues that the federal trust responsibility, recognized by the Supreme Court since the early 1800s, demands more than just a cursory review of tribal treaty rights.
The parties will be briefing the treaty rights issues into March, but the judge is keeping a close eye on Dakota Access’ progress in the meantime.
The ultimate fate of the pipeline will turn on how the courts recognize the rights asserted by the Sioux tribes, rights rooted in the Constitution’s values and structure – precisely the type of rights our rule of law and federal courts are meant to protect.


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By Claire Bernish

Juan Pablo Escobar Henao, son of notorious Medellín cartel drug kingpin, Pablo Escobar, now says his father “worked for the CIA.”
In a new book, “Pablo Escobar In Fraganti,” Escobar, who lives under the pseudonym, Juan Sebastián Marroquín, explains his “father worked for the CIA selling cocaine to finance the fight against Communism in Central America.”
“The drug business is very different than what we dreamed,” he continues. “What the CIA was doing was buying the controls to get the drug into their country and getting a wonderful deal.”
“He did not make the money alone,” Marroquín elaborated in an interview, “but with US agencies that allowed him access to this money. He had direct relations with the CIA.”
Notably, Marroquín added, “the person who sold the most drugs to the CIA was Pablo Escobar.”
Where his first book primarily covered Escobar, the man as a father, Marroquín’s second — which has just been released in Argentina — delves into the kingpin’s “international ties of corruption in which my father had an active participation, among them with the American CIA,” he said in a recent interview.
Those government associates “were practically his partners,” which allowed Escobar to defy the law, and gave him nearly the same power as a government.
Predictably, this information is conveniently absent from media headlines in America.
If the CIA trafficking cocaine into the United States sounds like some tin foil conspiracy theory, think again. Their alleged role in the drug trade was exposed in 1996 in an explosive investigative series “Dark Alliance” by Gary Webb for the San Jose Mercury News. The investigation, headed up by Webb revealed ties between the CIA, Nicaraguan contras and the crack cocaine trade ravaging African-American communities.
The investigation provoked massive protests and congressional hearings, as well as overt backlash from the mainstream media to discredit Webb’s reporting. However, decades later, officials would come forward to back Webb’s original investigation up.
Then-senator John Kerry even released a detailed report claiming that not only was there “considerable evidence” linking the Contra effort to trafficking of drugs and weapons — but that the U.S. government knew about it.
El Patron, as Escobar came to be known, amassed more wealth than almost any drug dealer in history — at one point raking in around $420 million a week in revenue — and reportedly supplied about 80 percent of the world’s cocaine. Escobar landed on Forbes’ list of international billionaires for seven straight years, and — though the nature of the business makes acquiring solid numbers impossible — his estimated worth was around $30 billion.
Escobar and the Medellín cartel smuggled 15 tons of cocaine into the U.S. — every day — and left a trail of thousands of dead bodies to do so.
“It was a nine-hundred-mile run from the north coast of Colombia and was simply wide-open,” journalist Ioan Grillo wrote in the book, “El Narco: Inside Mexico’s Criminal Insurgency.” “The Colombians and their American counterparts would airdrop loads of blow out to sea, from where it would be rushed ashore in speedboats, or even fly it right onto the Florida mainland and let it crash down in the countryside.”
If what Marroquín reveals in the new book is, indeed, true, it would mean the CIA played a major role in ensuring Americans had access to boundless quantities of cocaine — while the U.S. government sanctimoniously railed against drugs to promote the drug war.
In fact, as Marroquín keenly observes, drug prohibition makes for the best pro-drug propaganda — the nature of something being illegal naturally gives it greater appeal.
That prohibition guaranteed Escobar’s bloody reign would be all the more violent. Marroquín now believes “his path of healing is reconciliation with the relatives of those whom his father ordered to kill.”
While Escobar certainly used violence, or ordered others to use violence, to effectively foment and maintain power, he wasn’t without a charitable bone in his body. As Business Insider notes“He was nicknamed ‘Robin Hood’ after handing out cash to the poor, building housing for the homeless, constructing 70 community soccer fields, and building a zoo.”
El Patron met his fate in 1993 — by gunshot as he attempted to flee after his house was surrounded. However, the circumstances surrounding his death are still being debated today. Marroquín insists his father committed suicide rather than be shot or captured by police forces sent to hunt him down; while others believe Escobar was absolutely slain by police.
Either way, Escobar’s accumulation of wealth could be viewed as incidental to the role he played for the CIA and the war on drugs — a massive hypocrisy serving to keep people hooked on a substance deemed illegal by the State, so the State can then reap the profits generated by courts, prisons, and police work ‘necessary’ to ‘fight’ the ‘war on drugs.’
“My father was a cog in a big business of universal drug trafficking,” Marroquín explains, and when he no longer served a purpose for those using him that way, killers were sent to do away with the problem — the problem so many had a hand in creating.
Marroquín, who only revealed himself as Escobar’s son in 2009, says he’s had to forgive members of his family for their involvement in the drug business and betrayal of his father — but notes that forgiveness doesn’t mean forgetting what happened.
But he has measured perspective about the man who brutally ruled the cocaine industry.
“Pablo Escobar is by no means a role model,” he asserts.
“I admire Pablo, my father, who educated me. Not Escobar, the mafioso.”
Marroquín noted drug lords like his father might appear to have everything as their status and name garner attention, but these material gains, in actuality, take control in the end.
“The more power my father had, the poorer he lived.”

Washington may have finally found bipartisan consensus with Congressional Cannabis Caucus

Bipartisan House lawmakers launch pro-marijuana club

A bipartisan group of federal lawmakers launched the Congressional Cannabis Caucus with a press conference at the U.S. Capitol on Thursday afternoon.
Members of the Cannabis Caucus see marijuana reform as an important issue and will make a bipartisan effort to pass bills. While the group didn’t lay out specific legislative objectives, lawmakers said that there is a need to square federal law — which prohibits marijuana use — with the growing number of state laws that allow for medical and recreational use.
“The prohibition of cannabis has been a failure and Americans across our nation are demanding a more sensible approach,” said Oregon Democrat Rep. Earl Blumenauer.
Blumenauer is one of the Caucus’s founding members, along with California Republican Dana Rohrabacher, Colorado Democrat Jared Polis and Alaska Republican Don Young. All four representatives hail from states where recreational marijuana use is legal. Blumenauer said it’s important the federal government doesn’t prevent the continuation of research into its medicinal use.
“Following the November election, federal laws are now out of step with 44 states. The time is now to come together and bring the federal government in line with the will of the American people,” he said.
Rohrabacher echoed Blumenauer’s sentiments, adding that he has personally benefited from medical marijuana.
“About a hundred days ago I had an operation on my arm here, it was real heavy arthritis. As a surfer I actually wore away all the cartilage in both of my arms. It was really painful,” he told reporters. “They gave me this candle and the candle was infused with cannabis and yeah, I put it on my arm and guess what—the pain went away for a couple hours and I got sleep for the first time in weeks after that.”
Marijuana is legal, in some form or another, in 28 states. Various polls show that a majority of Americans support legalizing marijuana in some form and the marijuana industry brought in $6.7 billion in legal sales in the U.S. last year. Now that an additional eight states — including California — voted to legalize recreational use of marijuana last November, that figure is expected to grow.
But President Donald Trump’s Attorney General Jeff Sessions has raised concerns about the drug and said previously that “good people don’t smoke marijuana.” It remains to be seen whether Sessions will roll back Obama-era policies that have allowed pot businesses to flourish in states where it is legal.
“Many of us have expressed concerns about the new attorney general,” Rep. Polis said. “We’re also cautiously hopeful that President Trump will maintain a commitment he made on the campaign trail where he said it would be a state issue.”
Earlier this month, Rohrabacher introduced a measure called the Respect State Marijuana Laws Act of 2017, which would prohibit the Justice Department from using federal funds to target cannabis operations that comply with local laws. Under President Barack Obama, the Justice Department declined to interfere with states that had legalized marijuana, even though federal law defines it as an illegal drug.
But at the federal level, marijuana policy remains essentially unchanged from the early 1970s.
“Until (the underlying federal law is addressed), the industry exists really at the discretion of the president and the attorney general, and it’s a dangerous place to be,” Polis said, adding that, “we need to make the case directly to Trump.”
In a joint statement, several of the marijuana industry’s top leading lobbying groups and associations — including NORML, the Marijuana Policy Project and the Drug Policy Alliance, among others — issued a joint statement on Thursday commending the lawmakers leading the charge on cannabis policy.
“The establishment of a Cannabis Caucus will allow members from both parties, who represent diverse constituencies from around the country, to join together for the purpose of advancing sensible cannabis policy reform,” the statement read.
“The formation of this caucus is a testament to how far our country has come on the issue of cannabis policy,” the groups added. “There is a growing consensus that cannabis prohibition has failed, and it is time for a more sensible approach.”
The new Cannabis Caucus will be among more than 200 different issue-related groups that have attracted members from both sides of the aisle in the House. They range from the serious, such as the Bipartisan Taskforce for Combating Anti-Semitism to the Rugby Caucus.

Santa Monica, Calif., Dumps Wells Fargo Over DAPL Funding

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By Emma Niles

Santa Monica, Calif., has joined a growing list of cities that have enacted progressive local policies, often at odds with President Trump’s positions.
On Wednesday, the Santa Monica City Council voted to sever ties with Wells Fargo because the financial services company helps fund the controversial Dakota Access pipeline.
The Santa Monica Lookout reported:
Council members heard from nearly three-dozen speakers, including several who sang and played drums in an “honor song,” during the session that did not begin until the final minutes of Tuesday night due to the meeting’s lengthy agenda.
Many of the speakers had been to the much-publicized protests in North Dakota, where they objected to the project because they say it stretches onto sacred native land and creates water and other environmental safety issues.
“Santa Monica is taking a stand against Wells Fargo because they have repeatedly used deceptive business practices,” Councilmember Tony Vazquez said.
He continued, “Their investment in the Dakota Access Pipeline is the latest egregious action. It’s our hope that other cities will divest their funds so together we can have a collective and powerful impact.”
According to local news site Santa Monica Next, the council voted 5-0 to support the divestiture measure, although two council members were not present for the vote.
Santa Monica joined cities such as Seattle and Davis, Calif., which also have voted to pull investments from Wells Fargo due to its ties to the North Dakota oil pipeline.
In addition, Santa Monica has passed local measures on a wide range of progressive issues in the face of Trump administration moves. For instance, one day after the divestiture vote, the Santa Monica City Council approved drafting legislation to protect residents from having to give sensitive information to employers and landlords.
The Santa Monica Lookout explained:
After hearing from numerous public speakers who said they lived in fear under the Donald Trump presidency, the Santa Monica City Council passed a measure calling for staff to draft an ordinance that would prohibit employers and landlords, among others, from collecting information on people’s immigration status, religion and sexual identity. …
The action comes after President Trump signed an executive order last month that would have halted travel from seven countries with mostly Muslim populations designated by the Obama Administration as “areas of concern” because of terrorist activity.
“What we have here [from the federal government] is overt discrimination against people based on religion,” council member Kevin McKeown stated at the hearing.
Other local governments around the country are responding to President Trump’s policies in a outspoken manner as well. Los Angeles City Council members recently took similar steps to protect minorities and immigrants, with council member Paul Krekorian declaring, “It’s important for the city to get ahead of this and say, ‘We’re not going to stand for this.’ ”
It’s unclear how the Trump administration will respond to these actions in progressive cities, but community leaders say people are looking to their local governments for extra protection in a worrisome time.
“[W]e have a great deal of fear in the community,” noted Santa Monica City Council member McKeown during Thursday’s meeting.

Donald Trump considers mobilising 100,000 National Guard troops to round up undocumented immigrants

If carried out, states would have final say on whether or not troops are actually deployed

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By Feliks Garcia

Donald Trump's administration is considering mobilising as many as 100,000 National Guard troops to round up undocumented immigrants, it has been reported.

The Associated Press obtained a draft memo that calls for the unprecedented militarisation of the US immigration enforcement. But if implemented, governors in 11 states included in the draft memo would have final say on whether troops are actually deployed.
The draft memo, written by Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, includes four states that border Mexico – Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California – but extends to seven contiguous states  – Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, and Oregon. 
States like California would be unlikely to comply with the Trump administration should it actually call for the deployment of National Guard troops for immigration enforcement.
Last month, the President signed two executive orders pertaining to the southern border with Mexico. The first directed the construction of a wall in the region, despite the existence of some 700 miles of barrier already in place. The second boosted the number of Border Patrol agents and immigration enforcement officers who carry out raids and deportations. 
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer denied the report as "100 per cent false" on Twitter, but could not say that the subject was never a topic of discussion within the administration.
"I don't know what could potentially be out there, but I know that there is no effort to do what is potentially suggested," he said. "It is not a White House document."
The acting press secretary for the DHS also denied the report, saying: "The Department is not considering mobilising the National Guard."
But it remains unclear whether the White House will carry out this order as reported, as the administration has become notorious for attempting to discredit news stories that cast a unfavourable light on the President, writing them off as "fake".
Mr Trump launched his campaign with particular focus on immigrants from Mexico, criminalising them with broad brushstrokes. In his now infamous June 2015 campaign announcement, he referred to Mexican immigrants as rapists and drug traffickers, solidified with his vow to build a wall along the already-militarised southern border. 
In the first month of Mr Trump's administration, immigration enforcement officers carried out the first large-scale enforcement of Mr Trump's executive order to take action against undocumented people in the US.
Raids took place last week in and around New York, Los Angeles, North Carolina, South Carolina, Atlanta and Chicago, immigration officials confirmed – with more than a third of those detained in the Los Angeles area being deported to Mexico. 
Democratic Texas Rep Joaquin Castro condemned the draft and called it "disturbing". 
"I'm hoping that it's not true, but you get five different answers on controversial issues depending on who you ask [in the Trump administration]," he said during a conference call with reporters. "So it's hard to know when Sean Spicer's denial is actual policy. 
"The President needs to address this; the President needs to be clear about his intentions and whether he intends to use the National Guard as immigration agents."
Mr Castro explained that, following a meeting with ICE, it was hard to "not conclude that Donald Trump has started his mass deportation plan". In the meeting ICE officials referred to the President's executive order to crack down on undocumented immigrants and acknowledged that it was a much broader mandate than President Barack Obama's.
"They seemed determined to go after as many people as possible because of the language of the executive order," he said. "And the ICE director was very clear that they were going to follow that message."
Immigrants who face the threat of removal have the right to due process. A mass deportation operation would likely still require full removal proceedings, leading to mass incarceration and increase the likelihood of erroneous detentions. Mr Trump's actions could lead to an increase in immigration detention populations from about 45,000 daily to three million.
Christian Ramirez, the director of the Southern Border Communities Coalition and human rights director for Alliance San Diego, expressed concern about the panic that will stem from this report, as well as the fear that Mr Trump has already generated in immigrant communities along the US-Mexico border. 
"Any talk about deploying military personnel to our communities is not only of great concern to border residents who have been living under the boot of border militarisation for generations, but it should be of great concern to our democracy," he told The Independent.
"Having military personnel enforce civilian laws runs counter to basic principles of democratic societies and we should be concerned with the notion of this being contemplated by this administration."
Still, Mr Ramirez explained immigrant communities along the border were already heavily policed by the Border Patrol, the largest law enforcement agency in the country.
Mr Trump's enforcement efforts are made possible by infrastructure that has already been fortified by previous administrations. The Obama administration was fiercely criticised by immigrant rights groups for its part in ramping up immigration enforcement in the US.
Under Obama, ICE carried out some 2.5 million deportations between 2009 and 2015. 
"When it comes to the actual enforcement, we had gross cases of human rights violations along the southern border under Obama," Mr Ramirez said. 
"I think what is clear is that President Trump inherited a massive deportation machine and has control of the largest law enforcement agency in the country, which Congress granted these absolute powers to look the other way when it comes to protecting our Constitutional rights.
"What is clearly different is that, unlike the previous administration, the Trump administration has been using a whole lot of hate speech and hyperbolic rhetoric when referring to the border region, immigrants, and refugees – and language has a real impact on communities."

Krugman Floats a Far Scarier Possibility Than a Trump-Putin Axis

The hard-liners in Congress do not seem to care whether Trump colluded with Russia or not.

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By Janet Allon

Rand Paul summed it up best when he explained: “We’ll never even get started with doing the things we need to do, like repealing Obamacare, if we’re spending our whole time having Republicans investigate Republicans."
There it is in a nutshell. The hard-liners in the Republican Party are not going to let the little whiff of the possibility that Americans are being governed by a man taking his cues from Moscow get in the way of depriving millions of healthcare, demolishing the safety net and letting polluters pollute freely again.
Paul Krugman boils down the story so far in his Friday column:
A foreign dictator intervened on behalf of a U.S. presidential candidate — and that candidate won. Close associates of the new president were in contact with the dictator’s espionage officials during the campaign, and his national security adviser was forced out over improper calls to that country’s ambassador — but not until the press reported it; the president learned about his actions weeks earlier, but took no action.
Meanwhile, the president seems oddly solicitous of the dictator’s interests, and rumors swirl about his personal financial connections to the country in question. Is there anything to those rumors? Nobody knows, in part because the president refuses to release his tax returns.
Maybe it's all perfectly kosher, but an awful lot of reasonable and knowledgeable people think it merits a little looking into. One would think the uber-patriots in Congress, who endlessly investigated Hillary Clinton for the Benghazi raid might cock an eyebrow. But no, Ryan, Chaffetz, Devin Nunes, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, and company are all ready to move on for apparently the precise reason that Paul laid out. They've got other things to do.
There will likely not be an investigation into a scandal that has the potential to dwarf even Watergate. Watergate, as Krugman points out, "took place before Republicans began their long march to the political right, so Congress was far less polarized than it is now." Back in those seemingly quaint olden times, there was some actual agreement between the parties, certainly about holding a lawless president accountable. 
"The polarization of the electorate also undermines Congress’s role as a check on the president: Most Republicans are in safe districts, where their main fear is of primary challengers to their right," Krugman continues. "And the Republican base has suddenly become remarkably pro-Russian. Funny how that works."
Krugman, like many others, wonders how this unprecedented crisis will end? How indeed a president who already lacks legitimacy can be allowed to send American troops to die, or be permitted to shape the Supreme Court for years to come. The depth of the rot goes beyond Putin. As in any horror movie, the villain is in the house with us. A few Republican legislators willing to demand the truth no matter where it leads is all that it would take, a seemingly small ask. Are there enough "people of conscience" in the modern GOP?
Krugman suspects not, concluding that this fact is even "scarier than the Trump-Putin axis."

The Trump Administration Is Giving Cops Unprecedented Power

Forget the white working class; his base is the Fraternal Order of Police.

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By Nathalie Baptiste

The Donald Trump administration is off to a rocky start, with multiple damaging reports emerging from the White House alleging disorganization, incompetence and infighting—but that hasn’t stopped the new president from making good on his pledges to the country’s police officers. By branding himself the law-and-order candidate who would use his bully pulpit to take down criminals and fight crime, Trump earned himself the support of several police groups, most notably the Fraternal Order of Police, the country’s largest police union, which boasts more than 330,000 members.
Trump has already met with several law enforcement groups to make it clear where his priorities lie. Recently, while speaking to the Major Cities Chiefs Police Association (and after whining about a federal judge ruling that blocked his Muslim ban), Trump launched into a speech about what he believes cops in this country care about: crime in cities populated with black people, Mexican drug cartels, undocumented immigrants, and his desire to build a wall along the Mexican border. During the speech he claimed that undocumented immigrants in gangs cause the problems in Chicago and that building a wall along our southern border would stop drugs from “pouring” into our country.
Two weeks after signing two orders on immigration, President Trump signed three orders on crime and law enforcement, including one that targeted transnational drug cartels. Although immigration and drug enforcement have their own federal agencies, many cops seemed eager to jump into the fray, setting the stage to begin rolling back modest gains made in holding police accountable.
One of President Trump’s first executive orders on immigration revived a program dubbed Secure Communities and promised to defund jurisdictions known as sanctuary cities that choose not to enforce federal immigration laws. (Notably, law enforcement officials would be exempt from losing funds.) Under Secure Communities, local authorities—like jail officials—would share fingerprints of the individuals arrested in their cities and towns with the FBI, who would then send the information along to the Department of Homeland Security to check if that person is eligible for deportation using Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s database. If ICE determines that the individual is eligible, the local authorities are instructed to hold that person in jail until ICE can transfer him or her to a detention center.
The federal government stated that the intent of the program was to target the most serious offenders, but the program was disbanded in 2014 after it led to widespread racial profiling of Latinos, arrests of people who committed low-level offenses, and people without criminal records. During the course of Secure Communities, multiple cities chose to opt out.
But despite widespread criticism of the program, some police officers are applauding its revival and the crackdown on sanctuary cities. The Fraternal Order of Police praised the administration’s actions, including the revocation of federal funds, alleging that communities are safer when local authorities comply with federal immigration officials.
While police unions appear eager to partner up with federal immigration officials, their relationship with the federal agency that handles investigations into police departments is much rockier. Ramping up Department of Justice investigations into police departments that violate the civil rights of the citizens they have sworn to protect is perhaps Obama’s greatest police reform achievement. Investigations usually end with court-ordered agreements dedicated to reform, sometimes called consent decrees. While these investigations are not a cure-all, it was a welcome change for many activists. But just days after the election, police departments started making noise about DOJ-mandated reforms.
The Cleveland Police Department entered into an agreement with the Department of Justice in 2015 after the DOJ issued a damning report on the police department the previous year; the head of the city’s police union, Steve Loomis, was not part of the agreement, but that hasn’t stopped him from inferring that Trump will help make changes to the consent decree. Loomis said that the Trump administration is “cognizant of the false narrative that’s out there and [will] be hesitant to make major decisions based on false narratives.” Days before the report was released, a white officer shot and killed 12-year-old Tamir Rice, who was playing with a toy gun in a park. No one was charged for his death.
But now the DOJ will be led by Jeff Sessions, the former Alabama attorney general and U.S. senator, who was deemed too racist to be a federal judge in 1986. The new attorney general voiced concerns about consent decrees at his Senate hearing for the position. Sessions seemed to play into the “few bad apples” rhetoric despite reports from Ferguson, Chicago and Baltimore pointing to the opposite. “These lawsuits undermine the respect for police officers,” he said, “and create an impression that the entire department is not doing their work consistent with fidelity to law and fairness.”
Since the inauguration, Americans across the country have taken to the streets to protest Donald Trump’s actions. While some law enforcement leaders want to see the Trump administration tackle mass incarceration and enhance community policing, many more cops are embracing the Trump era. The National Sheriffs’ Association and Major County Sheriffs’ Association released a joint statement after President Trump signed the three executive orders related to law enforcement. “We thank the President and welcome the nation's re-awakening of support for law enforcement, the rule of law, and the need to protect our borders and enhance the nation's criminal justice system.”
Cheering moves that enable cops to crack down on undocumented immigrants and alleged gang members but balking at the federal agency designed to rein in unaccountability signals deeper trouble up ahead.