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Law Enforcement, State and Local Officials, Community Leaders, and Editorial Boards Voice Opposition to

Local Enforcement of Immigration Laws



Police Departments


Chicago (IL) Police Department, Tom Needham, Former General Counsel and Chief of Staff

[Noting that the mission of police is to prevent and solve crimes] “It would be virtually impossible to do that effectively if witnesses and victims, no matter what their residency status, had some reluctance to come forward for fear of being deported.”

(“U.S. Weighs Local Role on Immigration,” Chicago Tribune, 4/14/02)


Los Angeles (CA) Police Department, Sgt. John Pasquariello

“Because of our immigrant population here and our diverse communities, we don’t want to alienate anybody, or give anybody fear…That’s just not our policy. Hasn’t been for twenty years.”

(“Police Want No Part in Enforcing Immigration,” Los Angeles Times, 4/5/02)


Austin (TX) Police Department, Assistant Chief Rudy Landeros

“Our officers will not, and let me stress this because it is very important, our officers will not stop, detain, or arrest anybody solely based on their immigration status. Period.”

(“Austin Police Won’t Arrest People Only for Immigration Status,” KEYE CBS, Austin, 4/5/02)


Denver (CO) Police Department, Chief Gerry Whitman

“Communication is big in inner-city neighborhoods and the underpinning of that is trust. If a victim thinks they’re going to be a suspect (in an immigration violation), they’re not going to call us, and that’s just going to separate us even further.”

(“Immigration Bill Has Police Uneasy,” Denver Post, 4/22/02)


San Diego (CA) Police Department, David Cohen, Spokesperson

“Our policy has been and continues to be that we are not federal immigration officers, and our department guidelines for dealing with undocumented persons are very strict and are unlikely to change.”

(“Police May Gain Power to Enforce Immigration,” San Diego Union-Tribune, 4/3/02)


Miami (FL) Police Department, Lt. Bill Schwartz, Spokesperson

“We will not function in an INS capacity. It’s not our job. Our job is to solve crimes. We have way too much to do to be acting as INS agents.”

(“Critics Assail Plan to Have Local Police Enforce Immigration Laws,” South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 4/25/02)


Sacramento (CA) Police Department, Chief Arturo Venegas, Jr

“I don’t think it’s a good idea. We’ve made tremendous inroads into a lot of our immigrant communities. To get into the enforcement of immigration laws would build wedges and walls that have taken a long time to break down.”

(“Administration Split on Local Role in Terror Fight,” The New York Times, 4/29/02)


Metropolitan Washington (DC) Police Department, Chief Charles H. Ramsey

“To begin in earnest checking immigration status, I can see where that could cause some tremendous strain. Unless there’s some reasonable suspicion of a crime occurring, we need to be careful about the role we play.”

(“INS Role for Police Considered,” The Washington Post, 4/4/02)


Putnam County (TN) Police Department, Sheriff Jerry Abston

“I wouldn’t have the resources to do that…Money’s tight in the state in the counties, too. It’s [the INS’] job to take care of the borders, and I just think they need to do it.”

(“Midstate Authorities Balk at Possibly Enforcing Immigration Laws,” The Tennessean, 4/15/02)


Hillsboro (OR) Police Department, Chief Ron Louie

“We’re trying to build bridges with people living in fear. If police officers become agents of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, their ability to deal with issues such as domestic violence and crime prevention will be severely curtailed.”

(“Helping People Without Papers,” Portland Oregonian, 4/5/02)


Lake County (FL) Sheriff’s Office, Mike Brewer, Legal Advisor

“It’s an unfunded mandate. Now law-enforcement officers who should be looking for burglars and robbers are going to be looking for illegal aliens, with no additional monies for deputies coming down.”

(“Some Police Eager to Help INS Agents,” Orlando Sentinel, 4/5/02)


San Antonio (TX) Police Department, Chief Albert Ortiz

“Any time we get mandates and more work without a commensurate amount of resources, something has to suffer. One of the beauties of living in San Antonio is we have a lot of diversity and we seem to pull together. If that [mandate] happens, we’d really have to think very hard about where it would be on our priority list, and if it would even be a priority…We’ve tried so very hard for years to build bridges to all segments of our community. This would be a setback in that regard.”

(“Sheriff, Top Cop Blast INS Proposal,” San Antonio Express News, 4/5/02)


Ventura County (CA) Sheriff’s Department, Eric Nishimoto, Spokesperson

“We’re not in favor of having our department being responsible for that function. The number one risk is the potential for civil rights violations. Right now we’re involved in preventing any kind of racial profiling and this type of function could open us to that kind of risk…We feel our officers are not equipped to make that kind of determination of who is legal. In the 70’s, one of our tasks was to round up illegals and it was very difficult to make that kind of determination. From a practical standpoint, we’re not staffed to do that, especially in this time of budget reductions.”

(“Proposal for Police to Act as INS Agents Denounced,” Ventura County Star, 4/6/02)


San Joaquin County (CA) Sheriff’s Office, Lt. Armando Mayoya

“If police officers start reporting to the INS, more undocumented workers could wind up as victims. Criminals soon would realize that undocumented workers would be unlikely to call police for fear of being deported and target them for attacks. Racial profiling also could intensify if police are tasked with upholding immigration laws, and it wouldn’t just be Latinos targeted by police.”

(“U.S. May Let State, Local Authorities Enforce Federal Immigration Laws,” Dallas Morning News, 4/3/02)


Metropolitan Nashville (TN) Police Department, Don Aron, Spokesperson

“We don’t have any desire for all 1,300 members of the Police Department to be quasi-INS agents.”

(“Midstate Authorities Balk at Possibly Enforcing Immigration Laws,” The Tennessean, 4/15/02)


Stockton (CA) Police Department, Chief Edward Chavez

“To be quite honest, if people are law-abiding and are here to earn a productive life and be a contributing member of society…they should be allowed to live their lives.”

(“S.J. Officials Blast INS Role for Police,” Stockton Record, 4/4/02)


Waco (TX) Police Department, Chief Alberto Melis

“I worry that there are people who don’t ask for help because they have fear of the police.”

(“Waco Police Chief Asks Immigrants Not to be Afraid to Report Crimes,” Waco Tribune-Herald, 4/15/02)


Anaheim (CA) Police Department, Mike Hildalgo, Spokesperson

“We have enough problems just doing our routine calls and investigating the everyday things. This would put additional burden on us that we probably wouldn’t be able to handle.”

(“Immigrants Worried, Coe Pleased,” Orange County Register, 4/4/02)


Glenwood Springs (CO) Police Department, Chief Terry Wilson

“That’s a whole different area of law that we have to come up to speed on. We have enough on our plates right now. It’s not as if we’re out looking for extra things to do.”

(“Immigration Bill Has Police Uneasy,” Denver Post, 4/22/02)


Newark (CA) Police Department, Chief John R. Robertson

“This is a democracy, based on freedom, and people have a right to basic human dignity. That means they’re not going to be questioned just because of their appearance.”

(“Administration Split on Local Role in Terror Fight,” The New York Times, 4/29/02)


Arlington (TX) Police Department, Chief Theron Bowman

“We can’t and won’t throw our scarce resources at quasi-political, vaguely criminal, constitutionally questionable, not any other evolving issues or unfunded mandates that aren’t high priorities with our citizenry.”

(Dallas Morning News, 4/5/02)


Hillsdale (NJ) Police Department, Sgt. Robert Francaviglia

“We’ve been trying to get the immigrants in our town to believe that we’re not like many of the governments in their old countries, governments that were corrupt and wanted to railroad them, not serve them.”

(“Policing Immigration,” Bergen Record, 4/22/02)


Palisades Park (NJ) Police Department, Chief Michael Vietri

“If the Justice Department deputizes us and we make an arrest, then what do we do? Send them to the county jail? Now I’d be paying my officers to go to the county courthouse or jail, or worse, farther away to Newark? Who’s going to reimburse us? There are so many people who could get arrested in Palisades Park alone, you’re talking maybe having to deal with county and federal courts. The could take days, or more…the point about doing this to fight terrorism sounds like a decent idea, but when you go deeper, you see the possible effects.”

(“Policing Immigration,” Bergen Record, 4/22/02)


Fairview (NJ) Police Department, Officer Ronald Bononno

“They’re trying to make a living, that’s what they’re doing here. Ninety percent of the times, these guys are victims of crime. Should they have come legally? Sure, they should have. But they’re working here, standing right on the same corner where my grandfather Carmine did when he came from Italy, to wait for people to pick him up for work.”

(“Policing Immigration,” Bergen Record, 4/22/02)



Police Associations


California Police Chiefs Association, Chief Bob McConnell, President

“[I]t is the strong opinion of the California Police Chiefs Association leadership that in order for local and state law enforcement organizations to continue to be effective partners with their communities, it is imperative that they not be placed in the role of detaining and arresting individuals based solely on a change in their immigration status.”

(Letter to Attorney General John Ashcroft, 4/10/02)


Police Foundation, Hubert Williams, President

“The nature of the police role is to establish the trust and confidence of people living in a community. That is a vital link for police for information on criminal activity…Where does this fit in the context of priorities? Would it go ahead of robbery, homicide, drug offenses, any of those things?”

(“U.S. Weighs Local Role on Immigration,” Chicago Tribune, 4/14/02)


National Latino Peace Officers Association, José Carlos Marmots, President

“If this means that we have to stop Mexicans and ask them for their documents, we certainly won’t support this. That’s called racial profiling, and we don’t condone that type of action. We have other more pressing priorities that are more important to ensuring the safety of our community.”

(“U.S. May Let State, Local Authorities Enforce Federal Immigration Laws,” Dallas Morning News, 4/3/02)


Dallas Police Association, Senior Cpl. Glenn White, President

“The strain on local police already is enormous, and to ask us to arrest and detain immigrants is something the federal government needs to address by funding the INS some more and hiring additional personnel.”

(“U.S. May Let State, Local Authorities Enforce Federal Immigration Laws,” Dallas Morning News, 4/3/02)



Elected and Appointed Officials


Congressional Hispanic Caucus

“If state and local agencies begin to enforce immigration law, immigrant communities might hesitate to access police services, report crimes, or even step forward as witnesses to provide important information about criminal acts…To allow state and local law enforcement agencies to arrest suspected undocumented immigrants based on immigration status would erode the trust that has developed between police and community residents in working together to combat crime…it could interfere with effective anti-terrorist initiatives as local resources are stretched and directed to federal efforts that belong at the hands of the Immigration and Naturalization Service…Involving local police officers in enforcing complex immigration law without adequate training or experience would likely result in false arrests and the detention of people who merely appear to be foreign-born or who speak a language other than English.”

(Letter to Attorney General John Ashcroft, 4/11/02)


Representatives Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R-FL) and Illeana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL)

“We are concerned that your proposal to grant authority to local police departments to enforce federal immigration laws will irreparably damage the delicate relationship between police and immigrant communities and undermine effective immigration enforcement…By giving local police departments the power to enforce immigration laws, community-policing efforts will be endangered. The trust these localities have built between citizens and officers will be hampered if the local police are employed as a federal agency.”

(Letter to Attorney General John Ashcroft, 4/25/02)


Representative Robert Menendez (D-NJ)

“Using local police in that manner would very well interfere with combating terrorism if local resources are stretched widely on routine immigration violations.”

(“Plan to Let Local Cops Enforce Immigration Law is Opposed,” Arizona Daily Star, 4/15/02)


San Antonio (TX) Assistant City Manager Rolando Bono

“As a city, we’ve opposed unfunded mandates. We will be concerned with the shift of additional responsibilities to the local level.”

(“Sheriff, Top Cop Blast INS Proposal,” San Antonio Express News, 4/5/02)


Ohio Attorney General Betty Montgomery

“What you don’t want is people who are in this country legally being harassed or embarrassed as a result of a failure to educate our officers. We don’t want to make it difficult for legitimate visitors to our country to enjoy this country.”

(“Plan Would Involve Police in Immigration Cases,” Columbus Dispatch, 4/18/02)



Community Leaders and Advocates


Most Reverend Thomas G. Wenski, Auxiliary Bishop of Miami and Chairman, Committee on Migration of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

“We believe that if carried out, such proposals would undermine the safety of both immigrants and citizens, and would overburden law enforcement… [Undocumented immigrants] will be less likely to report crimes that they witness and to cooperate with police and prosecutors in investigating and prosecuting crimes. This will hurt immigrants as well as the wider community, by undermining the efforts of law enforcement and local communities to fight crime.”

(Letter to Attorney General John Ashcroft, 4/23/02)


Several National Ethnic, Religious, Civil Rights, and Immigrant Advocacy Organizations

“We believe that expanding the purview of state and local law enforcement officers to include civil immigration law could have serious, detrimental effects on community safety.  We fear that the damage this arrangement would do in eroding non-citizens’ trust in law enforcement could have far-reaching and unintended consequences, and we respectfully ask that your administration reject this proposal.”

(Letter to President George W. Bush signed by American Immigration Lawyers Association, Arab American Institute, Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, League of United Latin American Citizens, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Educational Fund, National Council of La Raza, National Immigration Forum, and Southeast Asia Resource Action Center, 4/24/02)


52 National and Local Organizations, Businesses, and Attorneys

“This ill-conceived policy reversal will almost certainly increase racial profiling of both immigrants and non-immigrants at the hands of law enforcement authorities…any trust that currently exists will be shattered and violent crime against immigrants, from muggings to modern-day slavery, will almost certainly rise. The key to providing adequate police protection to immigrant communities is to build trust in the authorities, not to build new walls between the community and the police.”

(Letter to President George W. Bush and Attorney General John Ashcroft, 4/24/02)


National Asian Pacific American Legal Consortium

“We strongly oppose such a policy because of the extreme damage it would do to the ability of police to work with Asian Pacific American communities…Because many hate crimes are targeted against immigrant communities, investigating those crimes will be made even more difficult if police are tasked with the responsibility of enforcing immigration laws…[community members] will be even more afraid…fewer witnesses will come forth, crimes will go unreported, and people will be less likely to report suspicious activity – including  acts leading up to terrorism.”

(Letter to the White House signed by Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, AFL-CIO, Hmong National Development, Japanese American Citizens League, Korean American Coalition, National Asian Pacific American Bar Association, National Federation of Filipino American Associations, Organization of Chinese Americans, and Southeast Asia Resource Action Center, 4/19/02)


Raul Yzaguirre, President and CEO, National Council of La Raza (NCLR)

“NCLR believes that extending immigration enforcement authority to local police would not make the nation safer from terrorism but, rather, would lead to the erosion of trust between communities and the police, which would make us all less safe…By creating a climate of fear, DOJ’s proposed action would prevent immigrants and others who live in tightly-knit communities from providing information about crimes and public safety that police need to be effective.”

(Letter to President George W. Bush, 4/22/02)


Frank Sharry, Executive Director, National Immigration Forum

“If the Justice Department is going to give the green light to local law enforcement to cooperate with the INS, it’ll jeopardize the efforts by local police to build relations with local communities. It’s a classic post-Sept. 11 Justice Department move. They want to improve security, but they’re driving away the very people who can provide help to law enforcement.”

(“Ruling Clears Way to Use Police in Immigration Duty,” The New York Times, 4/4/02)


John Dulles, Regional Director, U.S. Civil Rights Commission, Denver, Colorado

“No other metropolitan area in the United States considered cross-deputization after Salt Lake City voted it down. Folks all over the country were aware of that happened in Salt Lake City, and even the Justice Department backed off to some extent… Public safety police functions are not compatible with making determinations about who is in this country illegally. Most police departments have passed policies to limit cooperation with immigration authorities. They don’t want a part of the community fearful of reporting crimes or cooperating.”

(“Rights Advocates Slam Plan for Local Police to Enforce Immigration Laws,” Salt Lake Tribune, 4/5/02)


Margie McHugh, Executive Director, New York Immigration Coalition

“This would have a devastating effect on immigrant communities because…immigrants would feel they can’t come forward to report crimes for fear of deportation.”

(“U.S. May Seek Local Aid in INS Enforcement,” Newsday, 4/4/02)


Cheryl Little, Executive Director, Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center

“It’s going to make our community less safe, because immigrants are going to be less likely to trust the local police. This is going to drive people further underground.”

(“Immigrant Activists Rip Proposal,” Miami Herald, 4/25/02)


Frank Delgadillo, Orange County (CA) Congregation Community Organization

“This is going to affect our community. As it is, people are afraid of the police. They’re afraid to report what’s happening in the community.”

(“Immigrants Worried, Coe Pleased by Proposal,” Orange County Register, 4/4/02)


Teresa Ortiz, President, Casa Guanajuato (TX)

“This is a step backwards for immigrants because it would only make us suspicious of our local police and that’s not good in building trust, especially among recent immigrants.”

(“U.S. May Let State, Local Authorities Enforce Federal Immigration Laws,” Dallas Morning News, 4/3/02)


Henry Lacayo, President, El Concilio del Condado de Ventura (CA)

“It’s a bad, bad idea. Many immigrants are not being preyed upon by unscrupulous folks so if the police become involved in immigration enforcement this will drive them further underground.”

(“Proposal for Police to Act as INS Agents Denounced,” Ventura County Star, 4/6/02)



Editorial Boards


Orange County Register, “A Dubious Policy,” 4/9/02

“Along with other local departments, [Anaheim] has no desire to take on enforcement of federal immigration law. Such a policy would be unwise. It would blur the important distinction between national and local law enforcement and might divert local law enforcement resources from the more important job of trying to control crimes against people.”


Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “Don’t Send Police After Undocumented Workers,” 4/16/02

“Most police departments have discovered that they need to develop better relationships with immigrant communities – many of who are already paranoid about uniformed government agents – if they are to solve crimes in those communities. How likely are illegal workers to give police tips on crimes if they fear arrest because they lack ‘papers?’


Sending local police after undocumented workers would be a disastrous policy – and the taxpayers would end up paying for it. There would be more lawsuits such as the one following an ugly joint operation by the U.S. Border Patrol and local authorities in Chandler, Ariz., in 1997. Even U.S. citizens were arrested when they couldn’t produce documents proving legal residence. They sued.”


San Diego Union-Tribune, “No Local Role,” 4/4/02

“Mandating immigration responsibilities for cops – or school crossing guards, Boy Scouts or vigilantes, for that matter – is a terrible idea, little more that a cop-out by the federal government. If the INS is incapable of doing its job, then Congress should fix it. But do so at the federal level.”

Newsday, “Alien Idea,” 4/8/02

“People in the country illegally would be forced further underground. Crime victims and witnesses without green cards would not cooperate with police or courts, if doing so meant risking deportation. Fueled by a heightened paranoia, some immigrants would pull their children out of school, avoid public hospitals and any other services that could bring them to the attention of local authorities. The predictable result would be a community-wide deterioration of public health and safety.”




Prepared by the National Immigration Forum, 5/2/02