No one believes in the rule of law more than police officers. We work tirelessly to make our communities safer, within the confines of the constitution, by arresting those that commit criminal actions that threaten our communities. We target individuals committing violent crimes and arrest anyone who threatens the safety, regardless of their immigration status.
Members of the Texas Major Cities Chiefs, consisting of the police chiefs in Dallas, Houston, Austin, Arlington, Fort Worth and San Antonio, and the Texas Police Chiefs Association respectfully oppose Senate Bill 4, the so-called sanctuary cities bill. As amended by the Texas House, the bill would allow local law enforcement officers to ask people about their immigration status during an arrest or a lawful detention, like a routine traffic stop, putting local officers in the position of handling federal immigration issues.
We officers work extremely hard to build and maintain trust, communication, and stronger relationships with minority communities through community based policing and outreach programs. Broad mandates, such as those imposed by SB 4, requiring local law enforcement to take a more active role in immigration enforcement will further strain the relationship between local law enforcement and these diverse communities.
Officers would start inquiring about the immigration status of every person they come in contact with, or worse, inquire about the immigration status of people based on their appearance. This will lead to distrust of police and less cooperation from members of the community. And it will foster the belief that people cannot seek assistance from police for fear of being subjected to an immigration status investigation.
Distrust and fear of contacting or assisting the police has already become evident among legal immigrants. Legal immigrants are beginning to avoid contact with the police for fear that they themselves or undocumented family members or friends may become subject to immigration enforcement.
Such a divide between the local police and immigrant groups will result in increased crime against immigrants and in the broader community, create a class of silent victims, and eliminate the potential for assistance from immigrants in solving crimes or preventing crime.
Don’t forget that if we don’t arrest criminals who victimize our immigrant communities, we allow them to remain free to victimize every one of us. When it comes to crime, we are in this together, regardless of race, sex, religion or nation of origin. SB 4 will make our communities more dangerous, not safer, as we presume the legislature intended.
SB 4 reinforces the call by some for local police to become more involved in enforcing federal immigration laws. However, to comply with these constitutionally questionable requirements means stretching already limited resources. At a time of strained law enforcement budgets and critically low jail space, narrowing the focus to violent criminals, human traffickers, and members of organized crime syndicates is critical. Requiring local law enforcement to prioritize immigration efforts, without adequate funding or increased support from involved governmental agencies, will hinder an agency’s ability to focus its limited resources on the unique needs of the community it serves.
Immigration enforcement is a federal obligation. While the federal government has not been able or willing to address this issue, any effort by the state of Texas to address immigration reform will be ineffective.
SB 4 is not the answer to immigration reform; rather it is political pandering that will make our communities more dangerous. If the Texas Legislature were serious about removing undocumented persons, there are better ways to address this issue than forcing law enforcement to become immigration agents.
The Legislature could easily start by addressing the businesses that hire undocumented workers, which is why the majority of the honest hard working persons immigrate to this country with or without documentation. Addressing the primary reason undocumented persons enter this state would free law enforcement to address those people who are committing crimes.
We respectfully request that the members of the Texas Legislature withdraw the amendments to SB 4 passed by the Texas House of Representatives. This legislation is bad for Texas and will make our communities more dangerous for all.
David Pughes is interim chief of police for Dallas. Website: dallaspolice.net
Art Acevedo is chief of police for Houston. Website: houstontx.gov/police
The following police leaders also signed this column:
Brian Manley, Interim Chief of Police, Austin
Will Johnson, Chief of Police, Arlington
Joel Fitzgerald, Chief of Police, Fort Worth
William McManus, Chief of Police, San Antonio
James McLaughlin, executive director, Texas Police Chiefs Association