New Immigration Enforcement Bills Unwise

July 21, 2015

Gebe Martinez, [email protected], 703-731-9505

Congress Going Down Dangerous Road with Immigration Enforcement Bills

Law enforcement leader warns about adverse impact on public safety

WASHINGTON — Legislation that would mandate that local police become entangled in immigration enforcement at the risk of losing federal funding would make cities less safe and wrongly punish police departments and the residents they serve, National Immigration Law Center (NILC) Executive Director Marielena Hincapié said Tuesday.

The House of Representatives is scheduled to vote this week on a bill that would block federal grants for community policing and aid to crime victims in cities that do not turn over immigrants to federal authorities. Meanwhile, the Senate Judiciary Committee discussed similar proposals during a hearing Tuesday.

“These proposals are dangerous on many levels,” Hincapié said. “We agree with local law enforcement officials that this type of legislation would undermine state and local law enforcement’s efforts to build and restore community trust. Policies that turn local police into immigration enforcers will chill relationships with their immigrant communities, making them less likely to report crimes or come forward as witnesses, out of fear of immigration-related consequences. Ultimately, the safety of the entire community is at risk.”

During Tuesday’s Senate hearing, Chief Thomas Manger, president of the Major Cities Chiefs Police Association and police chief for Montgomery County, MD, said, “Surely, the committee recognizes that withholding federal funds to coerce performance of federal duties by local police is not why these programs were established.”

Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) told the Senate panel she would introduce legislation that would penalize localities that do not comply with Dept. of Homeland Security requests in certain circumstances. California passed the Trust Act in 2013, a landmark law that took significant steps to disentangle local police and immigration enforcement.

The flurry of legislative activity around immigration enforcement follows the tragic death of Kathryn Steinle, of San Francisco, which involved an undocumented immigrant. Some politicians immediately exploited the issue to advance an anti-immigrant agenda.

Hincapié urged Congress “not to act irrationally in response to a tragic incident, but to be mindful of the unfairness of criminalizing an entire community because of the actions of one individual.”

“It is also dangerous to pass legislation that would undermine community safety,” she said.

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A recording of a telephonic news conference held yesterday (Mon., July 20) about this issue is available at