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Green Bay Police Chief Reassures DACA Recipients

Chief Smith Posts On Facebook To Address 'Uncertainty And Confusion'

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After President Donald Trump announced his administration is ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA), Green Bay’s Police Chief issued a statement on Facebook stating all immigrants in his city will continue to be treated the same.

Police Chief Andrew Smith wrote police are, “committed to working together to keep our city and residents safe, regardless of people’s legally residency status. Officers are in our neighborhoods to protect and serve everyone, and officers will always act impartially, again regardless of one’s status.”

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“The courts have ruled that immigration enforcement is the role of the federal government,” Smith continued in the post.

The message was meant to explain the role of local officers versus that of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers, or ICE, said Capt. Kevin Warych, the police department’s public information officer. Smith wasn’t available for comment.

The message, posted Wednesday following the Trump administration’s announcement Tuesday, was also meant to calm fears and urge people to report crimes no matter their residency status.

“Since the presidential election there has been a lot of fear in the community,” Warych said.

Officers often hear concerns about immigration and policing at outreach meetings, especially at locations with large Hispanic populations, he said.

“We don’t make these up, these are the concerns that are brought forward, specifically in the Hispanic community. We explain to them what our role is and what the federal government’s role is.”

Others who work closely with immigrants who may be living in the United States illegally echo those concerns.

The Rev. Kevin DeGroot helps run Casa Alba Melanie, which helps connect immigrants with social services. Casa Alba Melanie is not associated with the Green Bay Catholic Diocese.

DeGroot said he’s heard from DACA recipients who are graduating college and entering a world of “fear and trauma.”

He praised Smith for his Facebook post because it has the capability of reaching people who came from countries where police are corrupt.

“The people from Mexico and some of the South American countries come from a background where there’s a lot of corruption from the police,” DeGroot said.

Quite often those police expect bribes, he said.

“If you’re going to be arrested, the people know they have to pay something to the policeman and he’ll sort of forget it,” DeGroot said. “Whereas here that’s not the case. With that background there’s still a little lack of trust.”

A spokesman from the Wisconsin Chiefs of Police Association, Sheboygan Police Chief Christopher Domagalski, said the decision to make a public statement such as Smith’s is an individual decision.

Domagalski said the statement was reflective of many other law enforcement agencies across Wisconsin.

DACA was created in 2012. It has provided nearly 800,000 immigrants a reprieve from deportation and given immigrants the chance to work legally in the U.S. through two-year, renewable work permits. It also lets them apply for scholarships. DACA applies to anyone born on or after June 16, 1981 and was brought to the U.S. illegally before the age of 16.

The Trump administration is giving Congress six months to come up with a legislative fix before the government stops renewing permits for those covered by the program.