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Last Thursday, June 26th a California Superior court upheld the LAPD’s 29-year-old policy of neither arresting people based on immigration status nor asking about immigration status during interviews. This policy, described by Police Chief William Bratton as "an essential crime-fighting tool for us," is meant to avoid discouraging the undocumented population in many LA communities from communicating with police officers and reporting crimes. Proponents of the policy’s abandonment, who filed suit in April 2007, argue that it conflicts with federal and state law. While under the policy officers do alert immigration officials in the case of a suspect who has either previously been deported or is arrested for a felony/multiple misdemeanors, plaintiffs argue that illegal immigrants are repeatedly arrested rather than appropriately deported.

The judge’s decision affirms that immigration law is to be applied on the federal, and not the local level. Local law enforcement officials cannot and will not be asked to act as federal immigration agents. The defendants argued, and the court agreed, that this conflation of positions is not warranted on legal grounds and is detrimental to the goals of local law enforcement.

The overturning of this lawsuit averts several troubling implications that elimination the disputed policy would have had. The role of a local police officer and that of an federal immigration agent have vastly different objectives; while the former exists "to protect and serve" residents, the latter aims to "effectively enforce our immigration and customs laws... by targeting illegal immigrants." In an area with a significant undocumented population, these roles are often at odds with each other. To ask that police officers assume the duties of immigration agents is to cast them into a confused role that ineffectively pursues conflicting goals. Furthermore, incorporating these duties into local law enforcement greatly increases the risk of racial profiling in pursuit of undocumented residents.

The court’s decision to uphold the LAPD’s longstanding policy marks a victory for security in these communities. As one of its six core values, the Opportunity Agenda holds security to be vital to our human dignity. Without safe and healthy living conditions, it becomes overwhelmingly difficult for residents to access any of the other opportunity that society has to offer. To put local police officers in a position that undermines their ability to serve their communities as a whole would be to betray a fundamental commitment to equality, security, and community. With its policy on immigrants intact, the LAPD can go forth in its goal to "build safer communities throughout the City of Los Angeles."

Originally posted to The Opportunity Agenda on Fri Jul 04, 2008 at 11:15 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I disagree with this (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    william shipley, redcardphreek, VClib

    Frankly I don't have a problem with the police check the immigration status of everyone that they arrest for violent felonies. As long as they check everyone I don't have a problem with it. When they arrest most suspects the police check databses to see if there is any information about past criminal activity or if outstanding warrants exist. I don't have a problem with them doing that for suspects of violent felonies or even any crime.

    I know that that the illegal immigrant apologists will then claim "what happens to the illegal immigrant who just happens to be at the wrong place at the wrong time who isn't doing anything illegal". My answer to that is that those illegal immigrants aren't here legally anyway. So what if they get deported at that stage because they aren't legally here to begin with.

    I do agree, however, with not asking the status of those who report or speak to the police. In order to advance the cause of justice I don't have a problem with the police not checking the status of those who fall prey to criminals or those who testify.

    But I don't have a problem with law enforcement running a check on the status of those that they arrest. I don't see how it's any different than checking the status for prior warrants.

    •  in the diary it states (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      theboz, HiBob, luckylizard

      While under the policy officers do alert immigration officials in the case of a suspect who has either previously been deported or is arrested for a felony/multiple misdemeanors,

      Violent felons are cked and deported once they do their time. To expand that to every ticket would be insane and unenforceable.

      If you want to see the rates of crime increase in migrant communitite then start asking everyone at every contact and there will be no more cooperation between the community and the authorities.

      Lose what little cooperation there is and the crime rates will skyrocket. Not that they aren't already due to the economy.........

    •  Public safety and trust in law enforcement (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      theboz, luckylizard, dsimons

      If a crime is committed, and police need to investigate, how much cooperation do you think they would get from potential witnesses if one of the questions they ask is "What is your immigration status?".

      January 20. 2009 cannot come soon enough.

      by Crisis Corps Volunteer on Fri Jul 04, 2008 at 12:02:13 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  You have little understanding of what a (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      theboz, Nightprowlkitty, dsimons

      community of working-class people is, apparently.

      "So what if they are deported."

      Cold, cold, cold.

      These are workers, and neighbors.

      We need to make sensible laws and administer the border to serve communities (including guest worker programs, etc.).

      It's so easy to ignore what social justice would mean when it does not affect your children, dude.

      Children, and often spouses who, by the way, are American citizens.

      Let's think a little harder, and not say the easy thing to say--which is quite cruel in this case, oceanstar-17.

      Habeas Corpus:See Hamilton quoting Blackstone in The Federalist Papers, number 84.

      by Ignacio Magaloni on Fri Jul 04, 2008 at 12:36:14 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Social Justice? (0+ / 0-)

        They aren't here legally. What part of that don't you understand?

        •  I'm not joining you at Either /Or world. (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          theboz, Nightprowlkitty

          You are back to some fundamentalist concept of law that allows for no progress, and does not factor in compassion--or the possiblity that there is more to this issue than meets your eye.

          Please, please, widen your acquaintance with the world of Latino and other undocumented workers and their families.

          Habeas Corpus:See Hamilton quoting Blackstone in The Federalist Papers, number 84.

          by Ignacio Magaloni on Fri Jul 04, 2008 at 02:44:17 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Well (0+ / 0-)

            I do support the DREAM Act, only because I can sympathize with someone brought here as an infant who grows up thinking that he or she is a citizen only to find out that he or she isn't. As for their parents, if they come here illegally, I have no problem with sending them back.

    •  Citizenship is not a ticket to (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      theboz, Nightprowlkitty

      additional benefits.  Citizenship is an acceptance of additional responsibilities--to participate in the governing of the community, holding office, serving on juries, voting in elections, even enforcing the laws, when necessary.

      It's a mistake to think that citizenship is some sort of reward.  It's a mistake to think that individual human rights are somehow "granted" by the Constitution.  Our rights are self-evident and may not be restricted but for cause.  And one of those rights is the right to move about at will, as behooves a mobile creature.

      How do you tell a predator from a protector? The predator will eat you sooner rather than later.

      by hannah on Fri Jul 04, 2008 at 01:08:03 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  your documents please (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      theboz, Nightprowlkitty

      It is not a simple matter to determine whether or not a person is in the country legally.  Local police are not equipped to know all the different ways a person could be in the country legally.  Determination of a person's legally can be better done by the INS.

      •  Again (0+ / 0-)

        What is the difference between checking if a suspect is a legal resident or citizen and whether he or she has outstanding warrants? Why is it wrong to verify a suspect's status?

        •  the law (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          theboz

          Arrest warrants are issued by judges based upon probable cause, the warrants are placed into a database accessible by law enforcement, and law enforcement are tasked to arrest the person.  Law enforcement does not need to engage in any interpretation.

          In the case of illegal aliens: no judge has ruled a person is illegal and there is no database which indicates which persons are and which are not legal.  The police would need to have access to the INS databases concerning the person in question, the police would need to interpret complex immigrant laws and the police would need to come to a conclusion on the persons legality.

          A judge, or the INS are much better than the police at determining if a person is legal because that is their area of expertise.

  •  I'd rather (7+ / 0-)

    have an illegal alien move in next door than a Republican.

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