MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN – On Monday, September 23, 2019, Jose Alejandro De la Cruz- Espinosa, a Milwaukee resident, was with his wife and three young daughters inside his vehicle parked outside of his home when he was barricaded and torn from his family by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents.
Two staff members from Voces de la Frontera responded to De la Cruz’ hotline call and promptly went to his location, 5th and Becher Street to verify his report. There they witnessed first-hand the apprehension of De la Cruz by ICE, in collaboration with the Milwaukee Police Department (MPD).
Describing the encounter with ICE agents, his wife relived the experience saying, “they wouldn’t let us say goodbye, they wouldn’t let us hug him. Nothing.” She told Voces staff, “they physically dragged my daughters out of the car, and they did not provide a search warrant. They terrorized my family.”
His daughter, visibly traumatized and holding back tears, explained, “they took him and now I don’t know what to do.” Her sister added while sobbing, “they wouldn’t let me hug him.”
“This is evidence that Milwaukee Police Department is collaborating with ICE,” said Christine Neumann-Ortiz, Executive Director of Voces de la Frontera. “If MPD collaborates with ICE in this environment, when the Trump administration is escalating its attacks on immigrant and refugee families, it only undermines confidence and trust in reaching out to local law enforcement when they need to. This fear and mistrust of local law enforcement extends to children in these households who are living through a deportation of a parent or a raid. This is why the Fire & Police Commission members must vote to strengthen MPD policy against ICE collaboration.”
“The last thing I want to see is the chilling effect when people are reaching out for help,” said Melissa Soberalski, an immigration attorney working with the De la Cruz family. “As a lawyer that works with victims of crime such as domestic abuse, sexual assault, trafficking, and other forms of violence, it’s essential that these individuals feel safe to report crimes to authorities and have access to pathways for protections. There needs to be a protocol change within the Milwaukee Police Department because they’re not doing what they’re saying they’re doing.”
Voces de la Frontera invites the community to take a stand against family separation, the terrorization of immigrant communities, and the dehumanization that happens when local law enforcement collaborates with ICE. We demand the MPD immediately end collaboration with ICE and to vote in favor of an amended Standard Operating Procedure on Immigration (SOP130) to include specific language that ensures the MPD does not collaborate with or assist ICE.
Take action and join us this Thursday, September 26 at 4:30 pm at City Hall, Milwaukee, for a press conference and public hearing at 5:30 pm before the Fire and Police Commission Standards and Policy Committee votes to amend SOP130 to strengthen language for non-collaboration.
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*Clarifications: Jose is known as “Alex” by family and friends. Spelling of last name is officially De la Cruz-Espinosa, but Jose has also used the spelling De la Cruz-Espinoza.