January 26, 2001


Commentary

Police as Immigration cops?

By Raoul Lowery Contreras

I demand you arrest these wetbacks," the middle-aged nursery owner yelled at the 23-year-old police officer who had responded to the owner's call. As two other black and white patrol cars pulled up drawing the owner's attention, the policeman softly asked the six Mexicans, in Spanish, if the owner owed them any money. "Yes," they all answered, "He owes us two week's pay."

"Pay them," the young officer ordered the owner, "pay them now, before I arrest you for slavery!" That's how decent local police used to handle the illegal immigrant problem. They usually used common sense, caring more for cooperation from these working people in ferreting out and combating crime than their "green card" status.

There is a movement twitching among us, however, to take local law enforcement, cops and sheriffs, into federal territory and turn our friendly neighborhood cops into immigration cops, into "la Migra."

Many Americans are unaware that immigration is a federal responsibility assigned by the Constitution's Article 1, Section 8; to wit: "The Congress shall have the power to.establish a uniform Rule of Naturalization." Congress can, however, delegate some of its authority as in mandating that local welfare authorities can and must prove legality of potential welfare or job training clients. In its wisdom, Congress legislated in the 1996 immigration "reform" effort that local police could arrest illegal aliens within a strict set or rules.

The Courts say this is legal in general, and specifically, in the case of immigration. The courts say that local police, state authorities and the federal government must, however, adhere to rules. Number one, the State must sign a contract with the federal government to train the local police. When trained, they must be paired with immigration officers or Border Patrol agents to make arrests for immigration law violations. They may not deport people, nor deny them any of the rights of hearings before federal officers and judges, nor may they arrest people for immigration violations without the presence of federal immigration officers.

No city or state in the country has entered into such an arrangement, but one, California's Anaheim, has a police officer, H. Martin, who is also an elected school board member, who introduced the proposal to the Anaheim City Council. The subject was not officially discussed because no city council person brought the subject up during a council meeting. Nonetheless, the issue was emotionally fanned by outside agitators and Mexican haters.

Leading the charge is Huntington Beach's Barbara Coe, founder and leader of the anti-immigrant California Coalition for Immigration Reform (CCIR). From claiming co-authorship of the infamous and unconstitutional immigrant-targeting Proposition 187 in 1994, to acknowledging her "racism" on ABC Television, to sponsoring anti-immigrant billboards alongside California highways, Ms Coe has agitated against illegal immigrants, against Mexicans and against any American who disagrees with her. She is a former civil service clerical worker.

The proposal hasn't yet made it past the conversation stage in Anaheim. It should never see the light of day anytime, anywhere. No greater danger than this proposal has threatened the American population since our Japanese-origin neighbors were rounded up and sent to concentration camps under the signatures of California Attorney General Earl Warren and President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. That vicious and horrible violation of the Constitution was racist based and so is this proposal, though on ethnicity, not pure race.

Who would the police stop and question for citizenship and legal residency - people who look like Robert Redford, or me? There are lots of people who look like me in the country and police could spend all their time checking papers of millions of American citizens and legal residents instead of fighting crime or writing parking tickets. The question must be asked, also, what standards of identification and verification would be implemented by thousands of city police and sheriff's deputies? Would each jurisdiction require different documents? Would each individual officer determine who is and isn't a citizen?

My grandfather died at 82 with a copy of his 1906 California birth certificate and a sixth grade report card in his wallet to prove he was a U.S. citizen. I object to and refuse to do that, now or ever.

Raoul hosts a Sunday morning talk show at 10:30 a.m. on San Diego's KCBQ-1170AM and on the Internet at www.kcbq.com

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