Monday, March 1, 2010

Police Oppose Immigration Enforcement Policies in Arizona and Texas

Arizona Sen. Russell Pearce (R) defended a wasteful new anti-immigrant bill with the claim: "The greatest threat we have to some of our neighborhoods is the illegal alien invasion." Maybe Pearce is lucky enough that the only "threat" to his neighborhood is undocumented immigrants trying to eke out a living there, but the state's police think some other threats are a bit bigger -- such as murderers and rapists, to name a couple.

Under the proposed legislation, any nativist Tom, Dick, or Harry who thinks their city or county police department isn't doing enough to hunt down undocumented immigrants can sue over it. Never mind that, as Rep. Daniel Patterson (D) pointed out, this is an unconstitutional requirement: "The U.S. Constitution specifically gives the enforcement of our nation's borders and immigration to the federal government." Sure, everybody's all "law and order" until it comes to legislatures (or our favorite sheriff, Joe Arpaio) respecting federal jurisdiction.

Never mind that this is an unfunded mandate, which Pearce ludicrously claims will have "no cost." Local cops don't currently receive extensive training in understanding and enforcing complicated federal immigration law (you know, because it's not supposed to be their jurisdiction), so that will have to be paid for. And as Jennifer Allen of Border Action Network points out, skimping on the training is liable to open police departments up to racial profiling and wrongful arrest suits, when untaught cops are forced to enforce laws as best they can without official know-how.

The Arizona Association of Chiefs of Police opposes the proposed law (as the ones who will actually have to enforce it) because rural communities don't have the funds to defend themselves any time a rabid nativist think they're not doing enough to enforce civil immigration law. Seriously, how dare police spend their time going after killers and rapists when there are bigger fish to fry?

A hop, skip, and a jump away in Houston, Texas, the local police department is frustrated that undocumented immigrant fears of law enforcement are letting the real criminals, like the killer of an 18-year-old on New Year's Day, get away. The murderer had been spotted committing a burglary the week before, and could have already been safely behind bars if the witness hadn't been afraid to go to the police and risk deportation. The Houston Police Department has tried to clarify through public information campaigns that ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) has their job of enforcing immigration law, but the cops' job is to " make sure that people that live here in the city of Houston are safe."

Of course, a law like the one being proposed in Arizona would restrict police from being able to stress their real function of going after dangerous crimes, not federal civil violations. If that legislation passes, I guess Arizona will become a lot more attractive to murderers and rapists, with law enforcement distracted by immigrant-hunting.

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