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ICE Launches Billboards With Images Of Undocumented Migrants In An Unprecedented Attack On The Community

In what many say is an unprecedented move, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced Friday it is launching a billboard campaign in Pennsylvania highlighting immigrants who have been labeled “at-large immigration violators.”

The billboard campaign is taking place in one of the nation’s most hotly contested swing states, just weeks out from the 2020 presidential election. And ICE says they’re want to highlight immigrants who were released by local law enforcement under so-called sanctuary policies who ICE says, “may pose a public safety threat.”

The agency has launched the billboard campaign as a boost to Trump’s “law & order” campaign, despite evidence showing that so-called sanctuary policies often have a positive impact on crime rates.

ICE has plastered immigration billboards across Pennsylvania.

In its continued attacks on the immigrant community in the country, the Trump administration has launched a billboard campaign across Pennsylvania that highlights immigration violators. ICE announced that it had placed several “WANTED” billboards across the state depicting immigrants recently arrested by local authorities in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.

Experts are calling this an unprecedented move taken in a swing state a month before the November election.

The immigrants, who ICE said were not authorized to be in the U.S., were released after being charged — but not convicted — with crimes ranging from public intoxication and disorderly conduct, to robbery and aggravated assault. The billboards don’t attach a name to the mugshot but include charges like assault. A phone number for an ICE hotline is also listed.

According to John Sandweg, former acting ICE director, in an interview with CNN, billboards singling out immigration violators raise questions about what purpose they serve. “How are they getting funding for it? How does that advance their mission?” he said. “Running billboards, it’s political messaging.”Hotlines to solicit tips or campaigns to recruit personnel are common, Sandweg noted, but those are more clearly linked to helping to advance the agency’s enforcement mission.

The move is meant to target sanctuary cities and to bolster Trump’s campaign message of ‘law & order.’

The billboard campaign is part of a larger strategy meant to target the policies of so-called “sanctuary cities,” which limit cooperation between local law enforcement and federal immigration authorities. Trump has repeatedly gone after these jurisdictions, arguing that they put public safety at risk, despite several studies that contradict his claims.

“Too often sanctuary policies limiting cooperation with ICE result in significant public safety concerns,” said Tony Pham, the senior official performing the duties of the ICE director. “ICE will continue to enforce immigration laws set forth by Congress through the efforts of the men and women of ICE to remove criminal aliens and making our communities safer.”

Many of the largest cities in the country have sanctuary policies in place. The leaders behind them argue that such policies make communities safer because undocumented immigrants are more likely to report crimes  if they don’t fear deportation.

Several ex-officials have come out against the move, calling it “wildly inappropriate.”

As many experts call the billboard campaign an unprecedented move, several former U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials have criticized the Trump administration for erecting the billboards. They say that the public messaging campaign exacerbates concerns about the politicization of immigration enforcement.

“The placement and the timing — the placement being Pennsylvania and the timing being a month before the election — make it clear that this is a political move, not related to operational matters,” David Lapan, a retired U.S. Marine colonel and former DHS press secretary during the Trump administration, told CBS News. “We’re almost four years into the administration. Why wasn’t this done sooner if that was something they thought was important?”

John Sandweg, who led ICE on an acting basis during the Obama administration, said he doesn’t believe the agency “has ever done anything” like the billboards. “It’s a political advertisement in favor of the president or at a minimum, against politicians that they disagree with. And that’s just wildly inappropriate,” Sandweg told CBS News.

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