From a Law-Enforcement Veteran, Common Sense About Dealing with Immigrants

Why is it a bad idea for local law enforcement agencies to act as immigration cops? Because it undermines public safety.

William J. Bratton, chief of the Los Angeles Police Department, explains why in this op-ed essay that ran last week in the Los Angeles Times. He also explains his decision not to have the Los Angeles Police Department participate in the program known as 287(g), which gives local law enforcement agencies the powers of federal immigration agents by entering into agreements with Homeland Security's Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE.

“Americans want a solution to our immigration dilemma, as do law enforcement officials across this nation,” Bratton writes. “But the solution isn't turning every local police department into an arm of Immigration and Customs Enforcement."

Bratton brings to the immigration debate a few things the immigrant-bashers lack, namely credibility and a track record. As he prepares to step down as LAPD chief, he is drawing praise from officers, politicians and the public for reducing crime — in a city with a huge immigrant population.

“Keeping America's neighborhoods safe requires our police forces to have the trust and help of everyone in our communities," he writes. "Yet every day our effectiveness is diminished because immigrants living and working in our communities are afraid to have any contact with the police. A person reporting a crime should never fear being deported, but such fears are real and palpable for many of our immigrant neighbors.”

Bratton notes that the Police Foundation, a law enforcement research group, issued a report earlier this year concluding that when local police enforce immigration laws, it “undermines their core public safety mission, diverts scarce resources, increases their exposure to liability and litigation, and exacerbates fear in communities that are already distrustful of police.”