Wednesday, July 15, 2009

An Arresting Dilemma That Doesn’t Make Sense

“The police chiefs here, having spent most of their careers in cities with large immigrant communities, said it would be impossible to send the nation’s 10 million to 15 million illegal residents home. They criticized last year’s roundups... at workplaces, and the federal 287(g) program that has given at least 63 police departments a role in deporting... immigrants.” (New York Times, 7/1/09)

It is not a message from “pro-immigrant” groups, or others pigeonholed as the “open borders” crowd. In fact, the recent message is coming from local police officials: an association that brings together the police chiefs of major urban centers. In early July the Major Cities Chiefs Association met to discuss public and community safety issues. A key discussion point was the nation's current immigration policies.

Troubled by what they believe is the wrong use of critical human and limited financial resources, the police chiefs called on legislators to take action on national immigration policy. They expressed their concern with the continued use of the federal 287(g) program, which allows local police members to question and detain anyone they suspect may be an undocumented immigrant.
This program has led to complaints of racial profiling, and compounded an already precarious relationship between local community members, immigrants ("documented" and otherwise) undocumented) and police officers. Indeed, the 287(g) initiative has disrupted the fabric of trust that communities have been trying to establish with local police departments.

At the gathering police chiefs reiterated what many already suspected: putting police officers to enforce federal immigration laws does not build dialogue between community members and police officials; in fact, this action strains financial and human resources, and does nothing to resolve the current immigration dilemma. In addition, the 287(g) program diminishes, in effect, the critical role community residents can play in creating safe, healthy and vibrant communities.

"It is troubling to see that already stretched financial resources are being used by local police departments to enforce federal immigration policy,” notes Gabriela Flora, AFSC Denver staff. “People in general, are often apprehensive about approaching police officials if they have witnessed a crime, or have been the victim of a crime. There is a better way of making sure that we have safe communities for everyone. I think this is the common denominator -- whether you are an immigrant or non-immigrant -- you want to live in a safe community. This is what is important to everyone and should be the key factor to consider," she concluded.

Contact the Department of Homeland Security:

Operator Number: 202-282-8000 or Comment Line: 202-282-8495
Leave a Message for Secretary Napolitano urging her to:
  • Refocus 287(g) funds to promote greater community participation in community safety.
  • Target funds to support community safety efforts so that everyone – immigrants and non-immigrants can be involved in the creation of safe, vibrant and healthy neighborhoods.