This will probably get me in trouble with the New York Times because I’m reproducing this OpEd piece whole. It’s by a friend of mine, a cop I know well enough to say I respect a great deal. He’s George Gascon. He was No. 2 under Bill Bratton at the LAPD until he quit to become police chief in Mesa, Arizona — a booming middle class area east of Phoenix that in some ways is like a modern-day recreation of the San Fernando Valley or the San Gabriel Valley.
The reason you should read this in my point of view is that Chief Gascon tells what I believe is the truth: “Without a national immigration policy, a new culture of lawlessness will increasingly permeate our society.”
Please read what he has to say, as a cop who is dedicated to protecting and serving the community as well as he can, and knows why gangs have taken over so much of L.A.
The Laws Cops Can’t Enforce
The Laws Cops Can’t Enforce
OUR next president faces a formidable task. He will be forced to
deal with two difficult wars, an economic downturn, higher energy
prices and a bankrupt federal immigration policy.
To some, immigration pales in comparison with the wars and the
economy. But for others, especially police departments in border states
like mine, it is all-consuming. The first priority of the next
president should be legislation that addresses the legitimate concerns
of both the people who believe our borders are out of control and those
who want equal protection for everyone living in this country.
Immigration issues are tearing apart communities. Demagoguery and
misinformation are shaping public opinion and in some cases public
policy. In the absence of a clear federal policy on immigration, states
and cities are enacting draconian and constitutionally questionable
This patchwork of conflicting local immigration laws is creating an
untenable situation for police officials who face demands to crack down
on immigrants — demands that contradict policing practices that have
led to significant declines in crime.
For police officials, refusing to carry out policies that may
violate the Constitution can be career-threatening. Both sides in the
immigration debate accuse police departments of misconduct in dealing
with immigrants. In this politically charged environment, some chiefs
are making decisions based on bad politics instead of sound policing.
In many cases, police officers are making illegal arrests with the
acquiescence and sometimes explicit approval of their superiors.
Here in Arizona, a wedge is being driven between the local police
and some immigrant groups. Some law enforcement agencies are wasting
limited resources in operations to appease the public’s thirst for
action against illegal immigration regardless of the legal or social
America’s 500,000 police officers are sworn to enforce the law. But
we are increasingly unable to do so. Those who want to restrict
immigration criticize us for not arresting immigrants for entering the
country illegally. Yet others rightly wonder how we can do our job if
some residents are afraid to report crimes or otherwise cooperate with
the police for fear of deportation.
Without a national immigration policy, a new culture of lawlessness
will increasingly permeate our society. In cities, politicians will
pressure police departments to reduce immigration by using racial
profiling and harassment. At the same time, immigrants who fear that
the police will help deport them will rely less on their local officers
and instead give thugs control of their neighborhoods.
Many top law enforcement officials were part of the community
policing revolution of the 1980s and ’90s. We have a deep concern for
constitutional rights and social justice. We believe that effective
policing requires residents, regardless of immigration status, to trust
We are also students of the mistakes of our predecessors. Past
police practices helped lead to the civil unrest of the 1960s, which
tore our nation apart along racial and political lines. We do not want
to repeat those mistakes.
If we become a nation in which the local police are the default
enforcers of a failing federal immigration policy, the years of trust
that police departments have built up in immigrant communities will
vanish. Some minority groups may once again view police officers as
armed instruments of government oppression.
A wink and a nod will no longer suffice as an immigration policy.
Effective border control is a critical step. But so is ensuring that
otherwise law-abiding undocumented immigrants have the same protections
as everyone else in a modern, free society.
Presidential candidates need to specify the measures on immigration
they would present to Congress after Inauguration Day. No doubt, the
advisers to John McCain and Barack Obama are counseling them to be
vague. That’s the wrong advice.
America’s police officers deserve thoughtful federal leadership so
that we can continue doing our best to provide our country with the
security that defines a civilized society.