Public Trust and Safety Are Essential in Immigrant Communities


Recent incidents have raised questions as to whether local law enforcement should be responsible for enforcing federal immigration law. No one wants violent crime in our communities.
For people who are threats to national security or suspected of felony offenses and without legal status, local law enforcement agencies should and do cooperate with federal immigration officials. Violent offenders who lack legal status should be deported. But we must consider how proposed policies could affect trust and safety in our communities.
As Congress returns this month, legislators will consider reactionary measures that could put local law enforcement in a difficult position, required to do the job of federal agencies in enforcing immigration policies.
Doing so would force local law enforcement to shift resources away from solving and preventing violent crimes in their cities, while also damaging the trust they have worked to build within immigrant communities.

Local officers from Texas and several other states already have voiced concern about these proposals, which they say neglect the nuances involved in policing at a local level and would impose a federal, “one-size-fits-all” answer.
In an ideal world, the last Congress would have passed immigration reform that addressed enforcement and security as well as an opportunity for hardworking immigrants to earn legal status and/or citizenship. Had it done so, undocumented residents in the greater Houston area and in cities across the nation would have a means by which to come out of the shadows and identify themselves legally
so that chiefs and sheriffs could recognize who is present within their jurisdictions—and target criminals, not otherwise law-abiding safety should be the first priority. At the same time, though, understanding
engagement between our city’s residents and law enforcement officials is vital to an effective, cooperative relationship.
Everyone needs to feel comfortable approaching law enforcement, without fear, to report crimes.
Strengthening this trust is particularly critical when cases involve immigrant victims of domestic
violence and human trafficking. Sensitive situations such as these involve victims who already might be afraid to come forward, notwithstanding an undocumented immigrant’s additional fear that he or she could be forced to leave the country. Now that Congress has returned to Washington from the August
recess, it is essential that members consider the complexities surrounding immigration enforcement and the unique circumstances of different localities. Even within Texas, we know that what works in one city might not work best in another.At their core, these policies would affect people deeply and personally. Congress should not play political games when it comes to dealing with the safety of our neighborhoods, keeping families together and making sure all of our neighbors are comfortable reporting and combating crime.

Story by Brenda Kirk


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