Local Police: Focus on Murderers, Not Roofers
Washington – As certain politicians offer up sound bites rather than real solutions to the problem of illegal immigration, it turns out that the policies they are pushing are actually undermining public safety. By coercing local police into doing the federal government’s job on immigration enforcement, they are undermining successful community policing strategies and diverting law enforcement resources away from criminals.
“It is unconscionable that politicians would put community policing and public safety at risk in order to score political points on immigration. When law enforcement leaders think a state-based immigration law or federal program will actually hurt their ability to fight crime and protect the public, politicians should pay attention. When they don’t, it shows that they are more interested in getting attention for themselves than helping the community solve problems,” said Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice.
State and local law enforcement leaders have been raising objections to anti-immigrant state bills like Arizona’s SB 1070 since last year. As a profile of former Sacramento Police Chief Arturo Venegas recently highlighted, “politicians are making it harder for the cops to do their jobs.” Venegas and other police veterans know that immigrants will stop reporting crimes and information to the police if doing so could lead to deportation. Law enforcement leaders also oppose diverting their limited resources to paperwork violations instead of serious, violent crimes. As Reggie Lloyd, the head of South Carolina’s State Law Enforcement Division put it: “Do you want us to chase the guy who cut his wife’s head off or is in MS-13 or dealing drugs, or do you want us to get the guy on top of the roof nailing shingles?”
While Arizona Governor Jan Brewer ignored the concerns of law enforcement and signed S.B. 1070 anyways, politicians in states like South Dakota and Colorado are starting to listen. At the federal level, though, new evidence shows that the Department of Homeland Security is expanding the role of state and local police in immigration enforcement despite concerns raised by local police.
Internal DHS documents and memos, obtained by the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, Center for Constitutional Rights, and the Cardozo School of Law, illustrate a shocking pattern of coercion and misinformation on the part of Secure Communities officials, in order to meet their goal of having all state and local police agencies participating in the program by 2013. They also show a reckless disregard for the program’s impact on community policing, concerns that have been raised by local governments in some locations.
Although federal-local “partnership” programs like Secure Communities and 287(g) are supposed to focus on serious criminals, they cast a much broader net. Nearly 80% of the people deported via Secure Communities and half of those targeted under 287(g) had no criminal record or were charged with low-level offenses, such as traffic violations. When immigrants are whisked away for deportation after being stopped for a broken taillight, it sends a clear message to the community: police are on the hunt for immigrants, not serious criminals. Clearly, state and local law enforcement leaders are right to worry about the impact these programs have on their relationship with the community and their ability to fight crime.
“State and local police need to be able to focus on their number one priority: protecting the public from dangerous criminals. Rather than leaning on state and local police to round up immigrants who aren’t criminals, DHS should either reform these programs to focus on people who have been convicted of serious offenses, or scrap them altogether. And politicians at all levels should stop playing politics with the issue, and advance a real solution through comprehensive immigration reform,” Sharry concluded.