HPD Chief Charles McClelland was one of several police chiefs to go to Washington and talk with Attorney General Eric Holder about why Arizona’s immigration law would be harmful to them, and why the federal government needs to finish the job of comprehensive immigration reform.
“The federal government should bring clarity to this issue,” McClelland said outside the Justice Department following a one-hour meeting with Holder.
McClelland said the government needs to define the varying roles of federal, state and local police agencies in enforcing federal statutes.
Several of the police chiefs were critical of the Arizona law, which allows police officers to demand from people proof of being in the country legally.
Tucson Police Chief Roberto Villaseñor said officers are bound to enforce the law, but warned that it would have consequences.
Those consequences, the chiefs said, include the possibility that victims and witnesses with questionable immigration status might not come forward to report crimes or cooperate with investigators.
That loss of trust with segments of the community would give criminals more protection from law enforcement, they said.
As I’ve noted before, we’ve already seen what happens when local law enforcement steps in on the immigration question. In Maricopa County, Arizona, home of nativist Sheriff Joe Arpaio, crime is up and response times are down, because the Sheriff’s deputies are too busy rounding up people who may be undocumented immigrants to focus on the rest of their job. We already know what will happen, because it’s already happened. Why would we want to emulate that?