Nullification at the Law Enforcement Grass Roots

By: Daniel Nardini

                                    Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Commentary    Even though the federal government is making it mandatory for state and local law enforcement to comply with the federal Secure Communities program, more and more law enforcement agencies are in fact opting out. The biggest reason interestingly enough is cost. Many local, county and state police cannot afford to take on added duties as immigration enforcement agents. The strain is too much for many police officers as they must fight gang violence (especially in Chicago), and must work to protect neighborhoods with less money and resources. Strangely enough, the federal government, because of its own financial woes, is largely unable to provide the money that many police municipalities would need if they somehow agreed to work with the federal government on immigration enforcement.
                                      Another reason is that such a policy has shown to be at odds with police trying to make connections within the immigrant communities. This is not just true for Latino communities, but also Asian and even immigrant communities from Eastern Europe, the Caribbean and Africa. How would it look if a policeman came one moment to render help to a victim and then returned to arrest the victim because of their immigration status? All of this would have a snowball effect. Not just one individual would be the only one victimized. The victim’s neighbors, and indeed the whole community, would take notice. In retaliation, the whole community could end any and all cooperation that the police had worked on for so long to establish. This would not only help the gangs become bolder, but force the police to expend more money and resources to fight crime. Lack of community cooperation is the second reason why a growing number of police departments are suspending their cooperation with the Secure Communities program.
                                      Finally, the number of arrests of those who are undocumented is not worth the effort. Like those being held in jail, the local, county and state police have to hold these people until immigration comes and picks them up, and the amount of paperwork it would take to deal with people whose only real crime is their immigration status is for many police departments not worth the effort. The police want to get those individuals who are responsible for serious crimes like theft, rape, homicide, arson, domestic violence, assault and battering, etc. Many police departments are having enough trouble holding those with truly violent criminal records and violent intentions. Does it make sense to lock up people who are not a threat to the community? In California, the state legislature is considering legislation that would forbid police from holding any undocumented on immigration violations or minor criminal charges (such as a traffic ticket) for immigration to pick them up. In New Orleans, the city is no longer going to hold undocumented on immigration violations or on minor criminal charges. Despite what a number of police enforcement agencies may be thinking, as long as there is no real immigration reform coming out of Washington,D.C., various local law enforcement agencies will have to map a strategy that best works for them.

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