Immigration: “Investigative Necessity”

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My grandbabies, Florence and Miguel V, are brown. Their father, Miguel IV, immigrated to this great nation from Guadalajara, Mexico.  I could not be more proud of Miguel, Steffenie and the babies.  At two Florence can speak English and Spanish.  Well actually Florence speaks Spanglish. Her first word was “besos,” Spanish for kiss. This was during the same time her daddy was detained at a U.S. airport for being in the U.S. illegally; except Miguel is an American citizen. He was detained because when asked to show his green card he could only offer a California driver’s license.  Americans don’t carry green cards.

So when the topic of immigration policy comes up, it gets my full attention. I want what is best for my family and my community, as do you, but I have seen the pain poor policy causes.  Sound and reasonable policy fosters a healthy community, so EPD strives to promulgate healthy policy.

Each Eureka Police Officer swore an oath to “fight all enemies foreign and domestic.” That does not stop because some people are uncomfortable with our oath, laws or policy.  There are people here who would do us harm to benefit their ideology, belief system or to gain personal profit.  For almost 40 years I have fought to keep us safe and will continue to do so, from foreigners and homegrown criminals.  It is a constant struggle to create strategy that inflicts the maximum damage to criminal organizations and those who run them. Here is what this fight does not include.

EPD will not stop, detain or arrest people because of their color, national origin, race or religion. That is unconstitutional, unlawful and wrong. EPD policy says, immigration enforcement is only conducted for “serious violations or investigative necessity.” Detain an American citizen because of his/her religion, race, or national origin…welcome to the Federal Courts, where you will rightfully lose.  Losing public money for minimal crime prevention benefit is bad business and furthermore bad policy.

EPD will not become immigration officers.  We do not have the skills, training or tools.  This is not how I believe we should spend our precious time and minimal resources. Immigration enforcement is a federal responsibility, not a local one.  The 250,000 Homeland Security personnel can handle this duty well. Having said that, if any federal agency calls for help we will be there for them. Not communicating with them and sharing intelligence on very serious crime and terror issues is shortsighted and leaves Eureka vulnerable.  EPD is not interested however finding reasons to detain people for minor infractions.

Zero tolerance policing for selective sections of law becomes onerous and over polices this community. If we were to enforce all laws ICE is responsible for, can you imagine the police checking for fake Louis Vuitton purses? It’s absurd. We also do not seek to stop, detain or arrest for every infraction officers observe. We also would not detain a school mom for dropping her kids off at school in a red zone at school, a very dangerous problem.

The police must possess the ability to enforce all laws, but use discretion when to enforce those laws. If not the justice system would implode due to cost and focusing on the wrong problems and wrong priorities.  When someone is breaking into your home, should a police officer stop to ticket a speeder? No, of course not, discretion is essential, including in the area of immigration.

If, during a serious crime investigation, we identify someone who needs to be detained, we search for legal grounds to take that person off the street.  The person, not their family.  Often that means revoking their probation or parole. It could also mean calling Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Immigration may be the only tool available and if that stops violence, EPD will use that tool.  What I don’t believe we should do is throw away the tool.  That becomes ineffective policy. Those who advocate to stop the police from investigating crimes committed by undocumented people have not considered the consequences of banning all immigration enforcement. I have worked cases of kidnapping and murder where ICE was a tool used to further the investigation. EPD policy says, immigration enforcement is only conducted for “serious violations or investigative necessity.”

Here is a truth: very often those most victimized by criminals migrants are those closest to them.  I cannot imagine being the victim of a serial sexual assault and afraid to speak up, because if I do I’d be deported. This is a choice some migrants face. The local police may be their only salvation from a living hell, and they must feel comfortable coming to EPD for help.  If we rigorously enforce immigration, with zero tolerance vigor, migrants and those here legally will not seek us out for help, but will avoid the police.  I believe that is morally wrong.

As a nation we need to fix our immigration system. We desperately need a virtual Ellis Island on the west coast and policy that is fair and just, one where we don’t split families or bar the poor, yet policy that still shields ourselves from criminals, transnational gangs and terrorists. If we drop the rhetoric and work together, we can create this policy and have a path toward legitimacy.  When we do, I believe the migrant community will support it and help this country continue to be exceptional.

I wrote this to explain my thoughts and therefore EPD’s policy on immigration. I welcome your feedback and input at amills@ci.eureka.ca.gov.

To read a copy of our immigration policy please go to EPD’s Transparency Portal.

http://www.ci.eureka.ca.gov/depts/police/epd_transparency_portal/default.asp

 

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