As many state legislatures consider expanding the role of local police departments in immigration control, police chiefs say they are reluctant to take on these tasks and want clear lines drawn between local crime-fighting and federal immigration enforcement, says a new report from the Police Executive Research Forum quoted by the New York Times.
Dozens of police department commanders who participated in the report recommended that local officers should be explicitly prohibited from arresting people solely because of their immigration status, and should have orders to protect victims and witnesses regardless of that status. The report cites worries among police chiefs that if they are pulled into immigration enforcement, a job that was limited until recently to federal agents, their ties to immigrant communities will be eroded, with the result that crimes would not be reported and witnesses would be afraid to cooperate in investigations. While individual police chiefs have spoken out against efforts to increase their immigration role in cities, the report makes clear how widespread the concerns are among commanders. Top officers from Salt Lake City, Topeka, Ks., Elgin and Peoria, Il., Framingham, Ma., and Miami were among the chiefs and sheriffs supporting the recommendations in the report.