The immigration situation: P1 Members speak out
SB 1070, Arizona’s recently passed legislation cracking down on illegal immigration, has national — even global — implications
President Obama has announced plans to send National Guard troops — and a half a billion dollars — to the Mexican border. Various cities with Major League Baseball teams have encouraged their citizens to boycott travel to Phoenix for the MLB All Star Game. Sheriff Joe Arpaio has encouraged residents of his state to boycott tourism in Mexico. At the root of this dust-storm is the matter of illegal immigration and Arizona’s recently passed legislation — Ariz. SB 1070 — affecting the role of police officers in that state on the issue of immigration enforcement. Unless legal challenges against it are successful, the Arizona law takes effect almost exactly one month from today (June 29, 2010).
Just under two weeks ago, we posted a news article from Associated Press reporter Jonathan Cooper with the opening line, “Arizona’s tough new law cracking down on illegal immigration is dividing police across the nation, pitting officers against their chiefs and raising questions about its potential to damage efforts to fight crime in Hispanic communities.”
Within days, that article garnered nearly 100 comments from PoliceOne members — the overwhelming majority of those comments were in enthusiastic support of the Arizona law. But opposition among law enforcers does exist. For example, on Wednesday, police chiefs from a handful of states — including Los Angeles Chief of Police Charlie Beck, San Jose, Calif. Police Chief Rob Davis,Chuck Wexler of the Police Executive Research Forum, Salt Lake City Police Chief Chris Burbank, and Sahuarita, Ariz. Police Chief of Police John W. Harris — flew to Washington D.C. for an hourlong, closed-door meeting with Attorney General Eric Holder. Their message: Arizona’s new immigration law will divert law enforcement resources away from fighting crime.
Further, Phoenix police officer David Salgado, an opponent of the new immigration law in Arizona, has sued the city of Phoenix and the governor over the measure. “It’s not my job to split up families,” Salgado has been quoted as saying. Regarding his perception of the ability of officers to get assistance from the Hispanic community in solving crimes he adds, “I guarantee you that we will not get help” once the law takes effect.
Meanwhile, a new opinion poll released last week by the Pew Research Center indicates that 59 percent of Americans approve of Arizona’s new law — according to Pew, only 32 percent disapprove.
Reporting on those poll results, the Associated Press said that specific provisions of the law are even more popular than the broad concept behind it. “Fully 73 percent endorse its provisions requiring people to show police officers documents proving their legal status when asked,” said one AP news report. “And 67 percent approve of police detaining anyone who can’t prove their legal status.”
In a separate report, the Associated Press said that, according to U.S. Border Patrol statistics, illegal crossings from Mexico into Arizona are on the rise, even as overall crossings to the U.S. are down almost ten percent this year compared to 2009.
According to one of my sources — a Political Action Committee called “Americans for Legal Immigration” — a total of 17 states are presently considering legislation akin to the Arizona law. Those states are Arkansas, Idaho, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, and Utah.
If nothing else, this means that what’s happening in Arizona will soon have at least some impact on law enforcement officers in nearly two fifths of our great country. If one were to look at it from a truly macro perspective, it could very logically be concluded that what’s happening in Arizona affects the entire nation. In fact, it actually has global implications. Don’t believe me?
I recently spoke on the phone with staff members at the Department of State’s Office of Consular Affairs — out of clear blue sky the Foggy Bottom Gang called me on my direct-dial line, a number that a not too many people outside of law enforcement have in their rolodex. They wanted to get the word out to cops about issues to keep in mind when you take any foreign national — whether they’re here legally or illegally — into custody. Here’s a hint: it’s a good idea to call that person’s consulate on the phone and let them know you’ve got one of their people. I’d bet a stack of green money that 99.99 percent of cops already know this, but it’s a good time for a reminder on the issue, so check out the letter to the law enforcement community from the Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs on Consular notification of detained foreign nationals.
This is not the first time we’ve taken a dive into the deep end of the pool on this issue. Recall that in July 2009, PoliceOne Legal Columnist Terry Dwyer examined the issue of immigration enforcement by local police and we launched a special news page on the issue earlier this year.
None-the-less, immigration enforcement is an issue that needs more — and more levelheaded — attention than it’s been getting in the national mainstream media. Consequently, a couple of my columnists — Betsy Brantner Smith and Dan Marcou — address the matter in special features today, and I agreed to run the aforementioned Op-Ed piece from the State Department. In addition, I also polled you, the readers and members of PoliceOne.
Personally, I agree with Jack Dunphy — the “nom de cyber” of an anonymous LAPD cop — who wrote recently in the National Review that “anyone who knows how the police actually work would not be afraid of the Arizona law.”
Dunphy states further that under the Arizona law, police officers “are to make a reasonable effort to investigate the immigration status of persons who have been lawfully stopped and about whom there is reasonable suspicion to believe they are ‘unlawfully present in the United States.’ This vests too much discretion and authority in local police officers, say the law’s critics, ignoring the fact that police officers exercise such discretion and authority virtually every time they step out of their cars, and in the vast majority of cases do so properly.”
No matter where you stand on the matter, I’m of the firm belief that PoliceOne should be the forum for cops to interact and exchange ideas, so I encourage you to add your comments below.
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