Law Enforcement Officials Fear Arizona-Like Immigration Laws Will Deter From Crime Fighting
A group of law enforcement officials from across the nation came to Washington today to voice their concerns about the Arizona immigration law:
Arizona’s new crackdown on illegal immigration will increase crime in U.S. cities, not reduce it, by driving a wedge between police and immigrant communities, police chiefs from several of the state’s and the nation’s largest cities said Tuesday.
The new Arizona law will intimidate crime victims and witnesses who are illegal immigrants and divert police from investigating more serious crimes, chiefs from Los Angeles, Houston and Philadelphia said. They will join their counterparts from Montgomery County and a half-dozen other U.S. cities in meeting Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. on Wednesday morning to discuss the measure.
“This is not a law that increases public safety. This is a bill that makes it much harder for us to do our jobs,” Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck said. “Crime will go up if this becomes law in Arizona or in any other state.”
The delegation was organized by the Police Executive Research Forum, a membership organization of police chiefs that functions as an independent think tankin Washington. The group’s meeting with Holder comes as 15 states are considering their own versions of the Arizona law, which defines illegal immigration as criminal trespassing and requires police to request documents of anyone they stop and have a “reasonable suspicion” is in the country illegally.
Unlike most police chiefs, almost all sheriffs are elected officials. However, only about 60 of the nation’s 3,000-plus elected sheriffs have chosen to participate in the federal program championed by Arpaio. Meanwhile, the nation’s leading police chiefs have voiced caution about such initiatives.
In 2006, the Major Cities Chiefs Association — which represents 56 U.S. cities — unanimously warned that putting “local police in the crosshairs” of the national immigration debate would undo the success of community policing efforts in recent decades, said San Jose Police Chief Robert L. “Rob” Davis, association president and part of the group meeting Holder.
Requiring the Los Angeles Police Department to prioritize the arrest of 400,000 illegal immigrants among the city’s 4.1 million residents would “cripple us and make it impossible for us to do our jobs,” Beck said.
Montgomery County Police Chief J. Thomas Manger said directing officers to spend hours investigating the immigration status of every person stopped with a suspect identification card would mean less time to catch violent criminals.
“We want to focus resources on people who are committing crimes in our communities,” Manger said. “If you got somebody who is gangbanging and committing armed robberies, we’ll work with [federal immigration authorities] all day long to find that individual.”
It’s a valid argument, I believe. Communities where immigrants, legal and illegal, live are also likely to be the targets of criminal activity for a variety of reasons. If the impression is created that the local police are little more than agents of the Federal immigration authorities, then, obviously, someone who is the victim of a crime is going to be less likely to report that crime, or cooperate with investigating officers, if they believe that they risk deportation. Rather than cutting down on crime, the current war against “illegal immigration” is likely to make it even more of a problem by making it harder for law enforcement to solve cases.