DMI Blog

Andrew Friedman

Sanctuary Laws Help Law Enforcment

Anti-immigrant hard-liners faced rejection at the polls last week. Their denial of the economic and cultural contributions of immigrations gained no traction, and their attempt to link immigration policy to terrorism fell flat.

So, now, instead of hearing the strident and disingenuous cries for border security, we are hearing about denying crucial public services, like policing, to immigrants. Such efforts are bad for everyone, and make it hard for local law enforcement agencies to do their job.

Yesterday's New York Times ran an article, Immigrant Protection Rules Draw Fire, about recent attacks on city and state laws that prohibit local government from sharing certain information with federal immigration agents. The basic idea is that if undocumented immigrants feel scared to call the police because they are worried that doing so will lead to deportation, then we are all less safe. Let's think about this. If I am the undocumented mother of two citizen children who are being beaten by their U.S. citizen father, am I likely to call the police if they are, in turn, likely to report my to immigration authorities? Of course not. Similarly, undocumented people are not likely to report dangerous working conditions, health and safety violations at the restaurants where they work, cooperate with police on everyday investigations, or seek important government benefits, like WIC or Medicaid, for their citizen children.

Our whole polity suffers as a result of this fear.

That's why local governments, from New York to San Francisco, have taken action to confront it. Lt. Paul Vernon of the Los Angeles Police Department, which has had "sanctuary" guidelines since 1979, said,

we didn't want people to fear cooperating with police.

Similarly, the Major Cities Chiefs Association, an association of police chiefs, has said that requiring the local police to enforce immigration policy did not

take into full account the realities of local law enforcement dealing with this issue on the ground.
They cited a lack of authority, training, and resources, as well as risks of liability.

The recent attacks on sanctuary laws are a perfect example of short-sighted policy proposals that aim to intimidate and exclude immigrants, regardless of the clear costs in terms of public safety for everyone else. Pro-immigration politicians should take comfort in last Tuesday's vote, and should stand up and confront these attacks head-on.

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Posted at 9:13 AM, Nov 13, 2006 in Immigration
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