Milwaukee not among 23 places OK'd for immigration training

MILWAUKEE -- Federal officials approved requests this week by nearly two dozen jurisdictions to train jail deputies as immigration agents but not one from Milwaukee County, whose former sheriff is a vocal supporter of President Donald Trump.

The county's omission Tuesday from the list of 23 jurisdictions nationwide was notable because of former Sheriff David Clarke's ties to President Trump and his hardline stance on immigration. Clarke resigned on Aug. 31 to serve as a senior adviser in a political action committee that supports President Trump.

Deputies can perform duties of immigration agents after completing a four-week training course with Immigration and Custom Enforcement as part of a program known as 287(g). ICE won't say which jurisdictions nationwide were approved for training until agreements are finalized weeks from now, but the agency said in an email to The Associated Press that Milwaukee County was not among those approved Tuesday. ICE declined to explain why.

However, sheriff spokeswoman Fran McLaughlin said the office's application is still under ICE review.

Meanwhile, in the Milwaukee suburbs of Waukesha County, Sheriff Eric Severson released a short statement saying his jurisdiction was among those approved for training.

Immigrant advocates argue the training can lead to racial profiling by deputies and have urged federal officials to reject Milwaukee and Waukesha's requests. One group, Voces de la Frontera, rallied outside the office of interim Milwaukee Sheriff Richard Schmidt on Tuesday and took credit for the county not being included in the 287(g) program.

"This victory in Milwaukee is a result of our efforts to give voice to the families who have suffered terrible human rights violations at the hands of the Milwaukee County Sheriff's Office," Christine Neumann-Ortiz, the executive director of the group, said in a statement.

Even before asking to participate in the training program, Clarke directed his deputies to hold individuals at the jail at the request of immigration officials when someone was suspected of being in the country illegally. Clarke made that the policy of his office despite objections from county officials.

During Clarke's tenure, his jail was at the center of complaints over the treatment of inmates. Women have filed lawsuits alleging they were shackled while giving birth when they were in custody and several jail employees are under investigation by prosecutors and could face charges in the 2016 dehydration death of an inmate who was deprived of water for a week as punishment.