A press conference was held at United Way today to officially launch the recommendations for the community issued by the Immigration and Refugee Task Force, which included the creation of a Driver’s Card.

Chief Deputy Jeff Hook of the Dane County Sheriff’s Office and Karen Menéndez Coller, executive director of Centro Hispano, co-chaired this task force that also included members from the City of Madison Police Department, UW-Madison Police Department, City of Madison, and other community organizations.

“The work of the Immigration & Refugee Task Force is incredibly important – it represents a firm, much needed on-going public commitment, from a diverse group of community leaders and law enforcement to stand together, and call for actions that will further support and protect so many in our community who are fearful of what the future holds for themselves and their families,” said Karen Menéndez Coller.

“Legitimate policing depends on relationship building, effective communication and trust amongst all community members. National politics and uncertain immigration reform have resulted in heightened fear and distrust in the immigrant community which has been shown to reduce reporting of serious crime,” says Dane County Sheriff Chief Deputy Jeff Hook. “The dialog between the IRTF and the community led to personal, organizational and community understanding of the urgent needs of the immigrant community. The development of the set of community-informed priorities outlined the most pressing, tangible, next steps needed to build trust in Dane County.”

In the fall of 2016, local immigration and refugee communities experienced a significant increase in anxiety, fear and unease which threatened family stability, trust in law enforcement, and overall community safety and well-being. Local law enforcement and non-profits asked the Law Enforcement Leaders of Color Collaboration (convened by United Way of Dane County and NAACP of Dane County) to evaluate trust between law enforcement and immigrant/refugee communities, similar to its Use of Force work. The Immigration and Refugee Task Force was created in summer 2017, and after a year of community listening sessions, research, and discussion, these are the Task Force’s recommendations:

1. Community Action – Advocate for State Driver’s Card
A state driver’s card would put the safety of all motorists ahead of the politics of immigration. Individuals would be required to pass a road exam issued by the DMV before receiving this card. As other states have done, this would make our roads safer and ensure more individuals are driving with adequate auto-liability insurance.

2. Community Engagement
Each jurisdiction should outline a formal community engagement strategy with its local community, including the immigrant and refugee communities. Growing skills in trust-building, relationship development and understanding the impact of law enforcement/civilian actions creates shared expectations and positive community outcomes. An engagement toolkit is included in the full report.

3. Organizational Capacity Building
There is an urgent need to emphasize context (demographics of neighborhoods, changing policies affecting immigrants and refugees, etc.) to better support our officers in their interactions with the immigrant and refugee community. Innovative pathways into criminal justice careers must be prioritized to bolster diversity in recruitment efforts. Police jurisdictions must facilitate and implement cultural competence – including language fluency – in hiring, retention and promotion.

4. Community Action – Reducing OWI’s
Reducing OWI’s benefits the community as a whole, and reducing OWI violations for the immigrant community is particularly important. We recommend additional, culturally responsive AODA supports for individuals seeking treatment, and recognition that jail bookings increase the likelihood of contact with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, even for individuals who have lived and worked in Dane County for decades.

“These recommendations are the result of ongoing communication that yielded a clear and necessary pathway for our community’s response to the safety needs of our immigrant friends and neighbors. All segments of our community must play a role in implementing the recommendations,” said Greg Jones, president of the NAACP of Dane County.