Law Enforcement Leaders Call Senate Immigration Proposals Irresponsible

Communications Associate

August 5, 2015

Letter to Judiciary Committee Emphasizes Strain on Local Police, Community Safety

WASHINGTON — Sheriffs, police chiefs and law enforcement leaders sent a letter to members of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary opposing immigration legislation that they said overlooks the negative effects on local community policing.

The proposed Stop Sanctuary Cities Act (S. 1814), which will be marked up by the committee on Thursday, would withhold certain federal funds from so-called sanctuary cities.

In the letter, law enforcement leaders said the sweeping proposals neglect the complexity involved in their varying localities by imposing a federal, “one-size-fits-all” solution and would compel local law enforcement agencies to engage in immigration enforcement activities. Instead, they urge Congress to focus on past-due reforms to the immigration system so that local police do not lose capacity to focus on violent crimes true threats to community safety.

The letter is signed by 18 sheriffs, police chiefs and law enforcement officials, all members of the Law Enforcement Immigration Task Force, from 13 states. Full text of the letter is below.

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August 5, 2015

The Honorable Chuck Grassley
Chairman, Committee on the Judiciary
135 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

The Honorable Patrick Leahy
Ranking Member, Committee on the Judiciary
437 Russell Senate Office Building
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Chairman Grassley and Ranking Member Leahy:

As law enforcement leaders dedicated to preserving the safety and security of our communities, we have been alarmed to see various legislative proposals that would attempt to impose punitive, “one-size-fits-all” policies on state and local law enforcement. Rather than strengthening state and local law enforcement by providing us with the tools to work with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in a manner that is responsive to the needs of our communities, these proposals would represent a step backwards. Notably, a number of proposals to defund so-called sanctuary cities sweep too broadly, punishing state and local law enforcement agencies that engage in well-established community policing practices or adhere to federal court decisions that have found federal immigration detainers to violate constitutional protections. We oppose such proposals and urge Congress to adopt a different approach.

Law enforcement needs are specific to each community. There are thousands of state and local law enforcement agencies across the United States, all with differing priorities, challenges and concerns. A rural county sheriff’s department will have different needs than a big city police department. A state police agency will have different priorities than a university police department. Different communities may face different public safety concerns. Yet, current legislative proposals make little distinction between the needs of different communities.

Immigration enforcement is, first and foremost, a federal responsibility. Making our communities safer means better defining roles and improving relationships between local law enforcement and federal immigration authorities. But in attempting to defund “sanctuary cities” and require state and local law enforcement to carry out the federal government’s immigration enforcement responsibilities, the federal government would be substituting its judgment for the judgment of state and local law enforcement agencies. Local control has been a beneficial approach for law enforcement for decades – having the federal government compel state and local law enforcement to carry out new and sometimes problematic tasks undermines the delicate federal balance and will harm locally-based policing.

Rather than requiring state and local law enforcement agencies to engage in additional immigration enforcement activities, Congress should focus on overdue reforms of the broken immigration system to allow state and local law enforcement to focus their resources on true threats — dangerous criminals and criminal organizations. We believe that state and local law enforcement must work together with federal authorities to protect our communities and that we can best serve our communities by leaving the enforcement of immigration laws to the federal government.

We urge Congress to reject proposals that tie needed law enforcement funding to federal mandates to carry out various immigration enforcement functions. Our immigration problem is a national problem deserving of a national approach, and we continue to recognize that what our broken system truly needs is a permanent legislative solution – broad-based immigration reform.

Sincerely,

Chief Richard Biehl
Dayton Police Department
Ohio

Chief Mike Brown
Salt Lake City Police Department
Utah

Sheriff Tony Estrada
Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office
Arizona

Sheriff Paul Fitzgerald
Story County Sheriff’s Office
Iowa

Assistant Chief Randy Gaber
Madison Police Department
Wisconsin

Chief Ron Haddad
Dearborn Police Department
Michigan

Chief Dwight Henninger
Vail Police Department
Colorado

Chief Michael Koval
Madison Police Department
Wisconsin

Chief Jose Lopez
Durham Police Department
North Carolina

Michael Masters
Cook County Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management
Illinois

Chief John Mina
Orlando Police Department
Florida

Chief Roy Minter
Peoria Police Department
Arizona

Lieutenant Andy Norris
Tuscaloosa County Sheriff’s Office
Alabama

Commissioner Keith Squires
Utah Department of Public Safety
Utah

Chief Ron Teachman
South Bend Police Department
Indiana

Chief Michael Tupper
Marshalltown Police Department
Iowa

Sheriff Lupe Valdez
Dallas County Sheriff’s Office
Texas

Chief Roberto Villaseñor
Tucson Police Department
Arizona

CC: Senators Hatch, Sessions, Graham, Cornyn, Lee, Cruz, Flake, Vitter, Perdue, Tillis, Feinstein, Schumer, Durbin, Whitehouse, Klobuchar, Franken, Coons and Blumenthal

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