LINCOLN - Dakota County immigrant communities targeted by the Trump administration's recent promise of mass deportation aren't getting any relief from local law enforcement. Sheriff Chris Kleinberg recently renewed his department's commitment to cooperating with the Department of Homeland Security, which deputizes local law enforcement officers as ICE agents.
Rose Godinez, legal and policy counsel with the American Civil Liberties Union Nebraska, said her legal team has three main concerns about how the program is being carried out.
"Number one is the increased racial profiling, which we have already seen take place," Godinez said. "We've seen U.S. citizens being stopped merely because of the color of their skin."
Godinez noted the program also has damaged relations between communities and law enforcement, which puts public safety at risk when people are afraid to report criminal activity. The ACLU also is monitoring the program's cost to taxpayers.
Sheriff Kleinberg, who has not yet responded to a request for comment, has said the program's goal is to speed up identifying and deporting undocumented immigrants who end up in Dakota County jails, not to screen motorists for their immigrant status.
Godinez pointed to e-mails obtained through a public records request suggesting that Kleinberg is interested in rounding up undocumented immigrants. In one e-mail, the sheriff raised concerns about the low number of encounters between his deputies and immigrants and deportations.
"He mentions that, 'How is it possible that those removals are so low, when there are so many non-white children in Dakota County schools?'" Godinez said. "So we find that concerning and clearly showing a bias in law enforcement - which is clearly unacceptable."
She said families shouldn't have to live in fear that parents won't come home from work, kids won't return from school, or a knock at the door could rip the household apart. The ACLU, business owners, labor unions and the Winnebago Tribe have launched a petition urging Kleinberg to end what they describe as unnecessary entanglement with federal immigration law.