ICE put up billboards with the mugshots of immigrants who were released from police custody

  • Immigration and Customs Enforcement launched billboards in Pennsylvania that display mugshots of immigrants. 
  • There are six billboards that feature immigrants who were released from custody but were not handed over to ICE.
  • The move has been criticized as an attack on sanctuary cities. 
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Immigration and Customs Enforcement launched billboards in Pennsylvania that display mugshots of immigrants who were released into their communities from police custody. 

The agency said the billboards are a part of an effort "to educate the public about the dangers of non-cooperation policies," in a press release.

The billboards feature an image of an "at-large" immigrant who was arrested or convicted of a crime but were "released by: Philadelphia Police Department." The word "WANTED BY ICE" also accompanies the image. 

The move by ICE targets "sanctuary cities," CNN reported. Sanctuary cities limit the cooperation between ICE and their local law enforcement. 

"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."

So far, the agency has put up six billboards. BuzzFeed reported that all six men had already been released from jails either by serving their sentences or by paying their bond. This likely means the individuals were not being held by local officials and that local laws prevented them from being held for the duration ICE wanted, the report said. ICE wanted them transferred into their custody so they could be deported.

James Schwab, a former ICE spokesperson who resigned from the agency in 2018, told BuzzFeed: "The tactic is unusual, clearly political, and disappointing given the timing."

President Donald Trump has historically claimed that sanctuary cities in states like California, Illinois, Massachusetts, and New York are unsafe. In April, he even threatened that states with sanctuary cities wouldn't get coronavirus aid until they changed their policies. 

ICE is calling on the public to inform them if they have information on where the featured individuals are. 

John Sandweg, former acting ICE director, told CNN while soliciting tips is common, billboards are political. 

"How are they getting funding for it? How does that advance their mission?" Sandweg told CNN. "Running billboards, it's political messaging."

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