Yesterday, a delegation of police chiefs from across the country (Arizona included) met with Attorney General Eric Holder to deliver the message that enforcing Arizona’s law (SB 1070) will divert precious law enforcement resources away from fighting crimes and break down the trust that police have spent years cultivating with local communities. Attorney General Holder is considering filing a legal challenge against Arizona’s controversial law, which makes it a misdemeanor to fail to carry proper immigration documents and encourages police to determine a person’s immigration status. According to reports, Holder gave no indication when or if he would challenge the law, but said “there would be a decision coming soon on some of the federal issues associated with this [law].”
There are already a slew of pending lawsuits against Arizona’s new enforcement law—many of which claim that the law is an “impermissible encroachment into an area of exclusive federal authority and will interfere and conflict with the comprehensive federal immigration system,”—that is, enforcing federal immigration law is not the job of state and local police. In addition to the many who are worried about the potential for racial profiling, the police chiefs claim that Arizona’s law will not only make it more difficult to do their jobs, but also increase crime rates:
If that happens, “we will be unable to do our jobs,” said Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck. “Laws like this will actually increase crime, not decrease crime.”
The new law “puts Arizona law enforcement right in the middle” at a time when police budgets are already in crisis, said John Harris, president of the Arizona Association of Chiefs of Police.
Although several other states are considering similar legislation, the police chiefs—who will actually be enforcing this law—remind us that SB 1070 is a symptom of a much larger problem. The problems with our immigration system are federal problems that warrant federal solutions—solutions that the same people in favor of SB 1070 actually support. While beefed-up enforcement measures—like SB 1070 or sending more troops to the border—might quell short-term tension over drug traffickers and crime at the border, it does nothing to address undocumented immigration or the larger problems within our immigration system.