Arlington PD Says It Doesn't Want to Be in the Business of Enforcing Immigration Laws

While Irving makes the occasional headline with its use of the Criminal Alien Program -- which involves turning over to federal immigration officials people detained for any reason, even traffic violations --  top cops in Arlington have taken a stand against that approach. Instead, they insist that helping to enforce federal immigration laws diverts resources from fighting serious crime and dissuades people from coming forward to help victims or identify criminals.

"It's often difficult to successfully accomplish our mission of preventing and reducing crime with the current resources and funding to our department," Arlington Deputy Chief of Police Kim Lemaux said moments ago, during a national conference call organized by Law Enforcement Engagement Initiative, during which police leaders across the country called for federal immigration reform. (Originally, organizers said that Dr. Theron Bowman, Arlington's chief of police, would be participating in the call. No reason was given for the cop swap. Nonetheless, Bowman was among the police chiefs involved in a massive study, The Role of Local Police: Striking a Balance Between Immigration Enforcement and Civil Liberties, released earlier this year.)

"'We don't have the ability to take on unfunded mandates such as immigration enforcement," Lemaux said. "Our department operates under a community policing strategy, and if a group of residents fears the police then they won't turn to officers for help, making them viable victims. We need everyone in our community to be willing to be involved and to not be afraid to report crimes. Tasking local law enforcement with immigration enforcement really sets us on a path that directly conflicts with community policing."

Rick Braziel, Sacramento's top cop, spoke about a recent car accident there involving a drunk driver: All of the witnesses fled because they didn't have legal status and feared the police. Officers were left with no one to help them investigate the crime.

"That's a sad state of affairs when an incident like that cause[s] people to flee and not engage the police," he said, explaining that his department doesn't use CAP or U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's 287(g) program. "It's critical that every member of our community be willing to cooperate with police, and that means trust. ... As long as there's fear that we're going to check status and take action against folks who aren't authorized to be in this country, we aren't going to get victims and witnesses to come forward."

The law-enforcement officials taking part in today's call said they treat all people the same during traffic stops and arrests, regardless of skin color or where they appear to be from. Lemoux stressed her department's difference from nearby cities such as Irving and Farmers Branch, which have been criticized for disproportionately pulling over and arresting Hispanics.

"We do not stop people based on their race or ethnicity or whatever we suspect their country of origin to be," she said. "We don't inquire about anyone's immigration status. We do not have any plans to participate in [federal immigration enforcement programs]."