Monday, October 23, 2006

Local Police and Immigration Enforcement

A commentary in JURIST argues that local police should not be required to enforce immigration laws, because it would undermine efforts to share information and gather intelligence from immigrant communities. This information can be vital to locating potential homegrown threats:

Most police have realized that they must have the help and support of the communities they serve in order to do a good job of assuring public safety. This means that police must create and maintain relationships with the communities they serve – relationships based on trust. Without this kind of relationship, police will receive little in the way of intelligence and information from the public, making it harder for officers to do their always-difficult jobs.

Police officers understand that if they are forced to become adjunct immigration agents, people in immigrant communities will begin to fear talking to them because doing so might bring with it the potential for deportation ... The fear will cause immigrant communities to cut themselves off from police, not offering information about criminal activity and not reporting crime.

[P]ushing police into immigration enforcement will prove a substantial setback to every effort now underway to obtain crucial intelligence against potential terrorists on our own soil ... In any number of successful anti-terrorism cases in the U.S. – in Lackawanna, N. Y., and Toledo, Ohio, to take just two examples – crucial intelligence has almost always come from people in the Middle Eastern, Muslim, and Arab communities.
I find this a compelling argument. There are other ways to stem the tide of illegal immigration. The costs of chilling the relationship between local police and immigrant communities seem too great. Local police are in a unique position to develop a trusting relationship with immigrant communities and get information about potential threats before they emerge. No one else can do the job as well.

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