A project of the Center for Community Change

Big-City Police Chiefs Urge Overhaul of Immigration Policy

police car

Yesterday, I noted that law enforcement officials from across the country were gathering in Miami to add their voices to the growing call for comprehensive immigration reform. Today, the New York Times has a detailed write-up of the panel discussion yesterday.

Chief Timoney, Chief Art Acevedo of the Austin Police Department in Texas and former Chief Art Venegas of the Sacramento Police Department said local law enforcement had been undermined by the blurred line between crimes and violations of immigration law, which are civil.

Those who call illegal immigrants “criminals,” they said at a news conference here, are misreading the law and hurting their own communities by scaring neighbors who could identify criminals.

“When you remove the emotion from the debate,” Chief Acevedo said, “no one can argue that it is in the best interest of public safety to keep these people living in the shadows.”

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 of illegal immigrants at workplaces, and the federal 287(g) program that has given at least 63 police departments a role in deporting illegal immigrants.

I have been writing about the 287(g) program and its negative effects for the past year, and its extremely encouraging to see law enforcement officials stand up for public safety in their own communities.

So, to re-cap, police chiefs from across the country believe that the 12 million undocumented immigrants in the country should be brought out of the shadows in order to make our communities safer. I think it is also worth highlighting that even law enforcement agents believe the criminalization of undocumented immigrants is detrimental to communities.

Faith leaders, labor leaders, law enforcement leaders, community organizations, leadership of the House and Senate, the President of the United States and the majority of the American public believe that the time is now for immigration reform. I’m not sure how to make a more convincing argument for why this legislation urgently needs to happen this year.

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