Police chiefs in the U.S. perceive significant differences between their departments and the communities they serve on some important dimensions of the immigration issue, says a new survey presented today at a conference sponsored by the Washington, D.C.-based Police Foundation. Law enforcement leaders believe that the community is more likely to view unauthorized immigration as controversial than is the department, somewhat more likely to see immigration as a local rather than federal enforcement problem, and more likely to see determining immigration as relatively straightforward.
In many cases the police lack guidelines for their officers in the area of immigration. While nearly every department (91 percent) has a policy prohibiting racial profiling, the potential for conflict between these policies and immigration enforcement remains unresolved in many places. A majority of police departments in our sample lack an official policy on how to deal with unauthorized residents and do not provide training to their officers on this issue. The vast majority of police departments have no formal agreement with federal immigration-law enforcers. Sixteen percent of the residents in the average locality represented in the survey were immigrants as of 2005. The survey was done by Scott Decker, Paul Lewis, Doris Marie Provine, and Monica Varsanyi, of Arizona State University.