Washington, DC – In a triumph of political posturing over problem-solving, Republican politicians continue to rally behind the Arizona anti-immigrant law and put forth more-of the-same “border security first” amendments in Washington. Meanwhile, leading police chiefs from major cities in Arizona and across the United States gathered in Washington yesterday to meet with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to make clear their opposition to the Arizona law, copycats in other states, and to push Washington to come up with real solutions.
Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice, said, “In Washington yesterday the contrast between leadership and gamesmanship could not have been clearer. Police chiefs from major cities bravely spoke up. They said that Arizona’s immigration law will increase crime, endanger public safety, and drive a wedge between immigrants and police. Meanwhile, pandering Republican politicians proposed to throw good money after bad into a broken immigration system. Instead of working with Democrats on a real and comprehensive solution to the problem of illegal immigration, they beat their drums and prayed to the false god of ‘border security first.’ The chiefs were a profile in courage. The Republicans not so much.”
At a press conference organized by the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF), here are some highlights of what the chiefs had to say about the Arizona law:
- Charlie Beck, Police Chief of Los Angeles, CA, said, “Laws like this will actually increase crime, not decrease crime.”
- John Harris, head of the Arizona Association of Chiefs of Police and Police Chief in Sahuarita, AZ, said, “We are stretched very thin right now. We don’t have enough resources to continue to do this and to take on another responsibility.” He also criticized the law for taking “away the discretion” of his officers.
- Roberto Villaseñor, Police Chief of Tucson, AZ, pointed out the public safety consequences of the Arizona law, noting that it will create a “fracture” between law enforcement and the community and stating that “we understand the frustration (over illegal immigration), but our concern is the public safety of those who live in our communities.”
- Rob Davis, Police Chief of San Jose, CA, said Arizona-like laws would “drive a wedge between some communities and law enforcement” and expressed his concern that “the decades of work to establish great relationships with immigrant communities could be hampered by this.”
- Charles Ramsey, Police Commissioner in Philadelphia, PA, said, “Over the last 25 years we’ve worked hard to build relationships with minority communities…Enforcing immigration laws will cause us many problems in terms of those people feeling they can talk to us about crime issues and report crimes.”
- Tim Dolan, Police Chief in Minneapolis, MN, noted that the law would make immigrants less likely to report crimes or act as witnesses, saying, “We know for a fact that those people won’t [call], and it will start from there.”
- Chris Burbank, Chief of Police in Salt Lake City, UT, said, “”We could enforce IRS regulations, but the question is do you want local law enforcement to take the lead role in federal immigration enforcement. What we’re saying is, we feel it’s going to divert our resources away from things we’re supposed to be doing — that is fighting crime and providing for the safety of local communities.”
- Charles McClelland, Chief of Police in Houston, TX, called for Washington to show leadership on immigration reform, saying, “The federal government should bring clarity to this issue” and needs to better delineate responsibilities between the federal government and state and local law enforcement.
According to Sharry, “The police chiefs get it – the Arizona law will burden local law enforcement, undermine community policing, and harm public safety. Instead of following Arizona’s lead, we need to enact a national and sensible immigration reform solution that actually gets to the roots of the broken immigration system.”
America’s Voice — Harnessing the power of American voices and American values to win common sense immigration reform.