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Police chiefs worried Arizona immigration law will increase crime meet with Attorney General

By Ron Brynaert
Wednesday, May 26, 2010 10:00 EDT
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Update at bottom: Chiefs claim Holder told them federal challenge is imminent

A group of police chiefs who have launched a campaign against the new Arizona immigration law which they believe will damage community relations with law enforcement agencies across the nation are set to meet with Attorney General Eric Holder on Wednesday morning.

A press release sent to RAW STORY states, “Arizona police chiefs are concerned that the new SB 1070 law in Arizona will drive a wedge between the community and the police, and will damage the trust that police agencies have worked to establish over many years with members of all their communities. More than a dozen other states are considering laws similar to Arizona’s. Police chiefs from some of America’s largest cities are joining with their Arizona colleagues to express these concerns and to seek the Attorney General’s advice and discuss the ramifications of state and federal immigration laws.”

The Washington Post’s Spencer S. Hsu reports, “Arizona’s new crackdown on illegal immigration will increase crime in U.S. cities, not reduce it, by driving a wedge between police and immigrant communities, police chiefs from several of the state’s and the nation’s largest cities said Tuesday.”

The new Arizona law will intimidate crime victims and witnesses who are illegal immigrants and divert police from investigating more serious crimes, chiefs from Los Angeles, Houston and Philadelphia said. They will join their counterparts from Montgomery County and a half-dozen other U.S. cities in meeting Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. on Wednesday morning to discuss the measure.

“This is not a law that increases public safety. This is a bill that makes it much harder for us to do our jobs,” Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck said. “Crime will go up if this becomes law in Arizona or in any other state.”

The delegation, organized by the Police Executive Research Forum, an independent think tank in Washington, comes as 15 states are considering their own versions of the Arizona law. That statute defines illegal immigration as criminal trespassing and requires police to request documents of anyone they stop and have a “reasonable suspicion” is in the country illegally.

“Arizona police chiefs are concerned that the new … law in Arizona will drive a wedge between the community and the police, and will damage the trust that police agencies have worked to establish over many years with members of all their communities,” a statement from the police chiefs said, according to reports.

USA Today reports,

“This law is the culmination of a very broken immigration system,” Phoenix Police Chief Jack Harris said. “It doesn’t fix the immigration problem, it only diverts our scarce resources.”

“All of us … are opposed to this,” Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck said, adding that the law will likely discourage witnesses and victims of crimes from cooperating with police. “This bill breaks the trust with our communities.”

Five federal lawsuits challenging the law have been filed since Republican Gov. Jan Brewer signed the measure last month. Holder is weighing a similar lawsuit on behalf of the federal government.

Brewer spokesman Paul Senseman said other law enforcement officials have “expressed their strong support for the new law.”

Full press release follows:

National Cross-Section of Police Chiefs to Meet With Attorney General Holder to Express Concerns Regarding Arizona Immigration Law

Washington, D.C.– A cross-section of police chiefs from major cities nationwide will join a group of Arizona police chiefs in a May 26 meeting with Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr. to discuss their concerns about immigration legislation in Arizona and other states and at the federal level.

Arizona police chiefs are concerned that the new SB 1070 law in Arizona will drive a wedge between the community and the police, and will damage the trust that police agencies have worked to establish over many years with members of all their communities. More than a dozen other states are considering laws similar to Arizona’s. Police chiefs from some of America’s largest cities are joining with their Arizona colleagues to express these concerns and to seek the Attorney General’s advice and discuss the ramifications of state and federal immigration laws.

Following their meeting with the Attorney General, the police chiefs will be available to the news media outside Main Justice at the corner of 10th Street and Pennsylvania Ave. NW. at approximately 10:00 a.m.

WHO: Phoenix Chief of Police Jack Harris
Tucson Chief of Police Roberto Villasenor
Sahuarita, AZ Chief of Police John W. Harris, President, Arizona Association of Chiefs of Police
Los Angeles Chief of Police Charlie Beck
Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey
Houston Chief of Police Charles McClelland
Minneapolis Chief of Police Tim Dolan
San Jose, CA Chief of Police Rob Davis
Salt Lake City Chief of Police Chris Burbank
Montgomery County, MD Chief of Police Thomas Manger

WHAT: Meeting with Attorney General Eric Holder
WHEN: Wednesday, May 26, 10:00 a.m.
WHERE: 10th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue NW, at the northwest corner of the Main Department of Justice building

Chiefs claim Holder said federal challenge imminent

The LA Times reports, “During the hourlong meeting, Holder told the officials that a federal challenge to Arizona’s law may be imminent, according to participants.”

He did say that the Justice Department is seriously considering action and that it could be done soon,” said Chuck Wexler, the director of the Police Executive Research Forum.

Holder has previously expressed dismay over Arizona’s new legislation, calling it “an unfortunate one…. It is, I fear, subject to potential abuse,” Holder said.

Justice officials have said that they may challenge the law on two grounds – for subjecting people to racial profiling and for usurping the federal government’s power to enforce immigration law.

An Associated Press article posted Wednesday afternoon adds,

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.

The Obama administration is weighing a possible court challenge to the Arizona law and “the attorney general said he would be making decisions fairly quickly,” though he did not elaborate, said Harris, who is police chief in Sahuarita, Ariz.

At the Arizona Daily Star, John Bolton notes, “Several national news organizations are reporting that a Justice Department legal team is drafting a plan to challenge Arizona’s new immigration law, SB 1070.”

All of the reports stress that a final decision to challenge the law has not been made and would face hurdles from other legal analysts within the Justice Department and in the White House. But the team is reported to be developing a challenge based on the idea that Arizona overstepped its authority.

Mike Levine of Fox News was first on the development with a blog entry Tuesday night: DOJ Lawyers Draft Challenge to AZ Law.

The story has also been reported by the Wall Street Journal and ABC News.

 
 
 
 
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