May 29, 2009
A group of police chiefs traveled to Washington, D.C. this week to tell federal policymakers that local cops should not be burdened with enforcing national immigration laws. Sponsored by the non-profit Police Foundation, the law enforcement officials expressed concerns that the federal government was pressuring state and municipal police forces to take up the slack in enforcing immigration laws, especially by means of the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency’s 287 (g) program, which deputizes local and state police to carry out immigration law enforcement duties.
Several police chiefs participated in a Washington, D.C. press conference to convey their message. They included Chief Harold Hurtt; Houston, Texas; Chief George Gascon, Mesa, Arizona; Chief Jose L. Lopez, Durham, North Carolina; Chief Toussaint E. Summers, Herndon, Virginia; and Chief Ronald Miller, Topeka, Kansas.
According to Chief Hurtt, expecting local police to act as immigration agents goes against community police efforts. Turning cops on the beat into potential deportation agents sabotages the trust and cooperation of immigrant communities, and could lead to racial profiling, Chief Hurtt asserted.
A new report issued by the Police Foundation contends that civil immigration enforcement by local cops “undermines their core public safety mission, diverts scarce resources, increases their exposure to liability and litigation, and exacerbates fear in our communities.”
Speaking in Washington, Topeka’s Chief Miller urged the federal government to take back the responsibility for policing immigration law violations.
“Police shouldn’t have to choose between being cooperative with the federal government and maintaining trust with the communities we protect,” Chief Miller said.
On a related note, two Texas border officials, Eagle Pass Mayor Chad Foster and El Paso County Sheriff Richard Wiles, testified May 20 at a US Senate hearing.
Sheriff Wiles told the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Refugees and Border Security that he does not allow his deputies to stop people to ask them about their legal status in the United States.
“Our position on illegal immigration enforcement works,” Sheriff Wiles said, adding that El Paso was “one of the safest cities in the US.”
The Police Foundation report contains recommendations for future immigration policies. The law enforcement research and advocacy group urges an evaluation of the 287 (g) program, supports prohibitions on local police arresting persons to investigate immigration status in the absence of a separate crime and backs policies and tactics designed to improve relations with immigrant communities. The report also calls on Washington to enact “comprehensive border security and immigration reforms.”
Frontera NorteSur (FNS): on-line, U.S.-Mexico border news Center for Latin American and Border Studies New Mexico State University Las Cruces, New Mexico.