Over one hundred leading law enforcement officials gathered in Phoenix this week to discuss how the current federal immigration policy impacts community policing at the local level. At the National Summit on Local Immigration Policies, hosted by the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF), these chiefs concluded that the broken immigration system has hurt their ability to do work with the entire community to fight crime, and Congress should promptly adopt an immigration bill that includes guest worker programs, legalization of the undocumented workforce, and stronger enforcement against employers who hire illegally. As the Arizona Republic noted in coverage of the conference, Phoenix Police Chief Jack Harris summed up the view of many attendees by saying that the immigration system “needs to be fixed, and it needs to be done sooner rather than later.”
The PERF summit is the latest in an escalating drumbeat of law enforcement voices demanding federal action on comprehensive immigration reform.
“State and local police are on the front lines of the effort to fight crime and protect our communities, and they see the impact of Washington’s failure to fix the immigration system every day,” said Lynn Tramonte, Deputy Director of America’s Voice. “Police need to work with the entire community in order to protect us from criminals, yet right now millions of immigrants are afraid to work with them when they are victims of crime, because they think that could lead to their own deportation.”
“These law enforcement leaders are bringing an important perspective to the need for rational immigration reform, and demanding that Washington take action now. For too long, politicians in Washington have let the problem grow, and focused on looking ‘tough’ on immigration, not looking for common sense solutions. We need a reform law that would require immigrants in the U.S. illegally to register, pass background checks, pay a fine and taxes, and study English on their way to become full American citizens. This would restore the rule of law and help state and local police focus on their number one job: fighting crime and protecting the public from criminals.”
The PERF summit attendees also criticized implementation of the federal “287(g)” program that has involved many police agencies in civil immigration enforcement, rather than focusing on the serious criminals it was intended to address. Their analysis bolstered a recent Police Foundation report, which found that “civil immigration enforcement by local police undermines their core public safety mission, diverts scarce resources, increases their exposure to liability and litigation, and exacerbates fear in our communities.”
To read more about the law enforcement voices speaking up about the need for common sense immigration reform, visit the web site of the Law Enforcement Engagement Initiative at http://leei.us/main/home.html, or contact Arturo Venegas, former Chief of Police in Sacramento, CA and current Project Director of the Law Enforcement Engagement Initiative at artvenegas@LEEI.us.