Federal immigration officials made little effort to work with Madison-area law enforcement — with one officer referring in an email to the area’s “radical population” — before carrying out dozens of arrests in Wisconsin last fall, according to records released Monday by U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan.
The records obtained by Pocan, D-Black Earth, under the federal Freedom of Information Act show Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials tried to contact Madison police on Sept. 19, two days before the arrests began. A handwritten note by ICE officials in the records says Madison police officials responded on Sept. 21, the day they started.
But Pocan noted other records show that ICE advised law enforcement officials in other counties about the arrests weeks in advance. Some local officials, such as the Eau Claire County Sheriff’s Office, were contacted as early as Aug. 2, the records show.
The records also show an ICE officer, whose name is redacted, reference “a radical population in the Dane area.” It’s part of an email exchange with a Janesville Police Department official asking if the department wanted to be named in a press release as having assisted federal officials in conducting the arrests.
“I know there is a radical population in the Dane area and no doubt, some of that population may bleed over to the Rock County area and specifically Janesville,” the ICE officer wrote. “Could you please confirm with your Chief whether he still wishes to be included.”
The release of the records is the latest fallout from a statewide enforcement action by ICE agents that resulted in the arrest of 83 people, including 20 in Dane County, ICE officials said at the time.
They included a 27-year-old man from Thailand who is a convicted sex offender and a 27-year-old man from Mexico who has a 2016 conviction for child enticement for exposing his genitals.
But Pocan — who has called ICE a “rogue agency” that should be disbanded — said roughly half of those arrested had no record of major non-immigration-related violations.
Dane County Sheriff Dave Mahoney also criticized ICE at a Monday press conference for its handling of the arrests, which he said poses safety concerns.
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“To say that Dane County and Madison, or any other of our communities, are radical and cannot be trusted is extremely false,” Mahoney said. “We have never countered the mission of any federal agency, nor will we.”
ICE officials reportedly contacted the Dane County 911 dispatch center prior to the arrests. But Mahoney and Madison police have said they didn’t get that information.
Mahoney said the only contact he received from an ICE official prior to the September operation included general questions about how to reach the county’s 911 dispatch center. But he said the official gave no indication about the arrests.
Mahoney said federal law enforcement officials have always given advance notice of arrests or other enforcement actions in Dane County — usually in case local law enforcement is dispatched to the scene.
ICE is “the only federal law enforcement agency in my 40 years of law enforcement that has not done this,” he said.
ICE officials did not respond to a request for comment Monday.
The records Pocan released were obtained by a public records request submitted to ICE in October. Pocan posed questions including information about those arrested, and about any contacts between federal officials and local law enforcement before the arrests occurred. In recent months he made two unannounced visits to ICE headquarters seeking a response.
Pocan said the records show ICE is stonewalling much of his request, as many of his inquiries were not addressed or had responsive information redacted. He said he plans to appeal the agency’s response and will sue, if necessary, to obtain records he believes the agency is required to provide.
“We think this was an intentional misuse of what the FOIA request was,” Pocan said.