Thursday, July 31, 2008

Confronting the Bully in Phoenix

Although George Gascon the Chief of Police of Mesa, AZ does not mention the name of Arpaio - he is speaking directly about the Maricopa County Sheriff and his brutal tactics concerning immigration.

Arpaio has grabbed the attention of those who hate immigrants and those who love immigrants. He is a great icon for the immigration debate. He is surely enjoying his celebrity status - and undoubtedly plans to do whatever he can to continue grabbing the attention of the media.

Unfortunately, gaining attention via the persecution of a group of people that don't have many rights to start with (i.e. Lou Dobbs style) is not a respectable way of becoming famous.

In the essay below, Chief Gascon is right about police not being able to do their job if they are also immigration enforcers. The police officer/immigration enforcer will only need to drive through a Latino neighborhood to cause terror in all who see him. Most of these people who he encounters would be American citizens, but it doesn't look like citizenship is important to the police turned ICE guys - they have their run-down on how an undocumented person should look - guilty until proven innocent - which is hard to contradict in a system so arbitrary.   At this point the police would totally transform into ICE guys - cold heart and all.

If this trend continues I recommend for all people with brown or swarthy skin carry their passports at all time. I do not just mean Latinos who are brown skinned (believe it or not, there are lots of us who look white).

In this case the following groups of people would be suspect to police/ICE guys:

1. If your father was born in Naples, Italy
2. If your grandmother was from Lebanon
3. If a couple of people in your ancestry were native American
4. If you are a Sephardic Jew
5. If you are a Jew with dark hair and tan easily
6. If you have dark brown eyes and dark brown hair
7. If you were born in Greece
8.  If you have brown skin and you are wearing your old shorts and t-shirt to cut your lawn.
9. If you can speak good Spanish
10. If you watch telenovelas

July 31, 2008
The Laws Cops Can’t Enforce

Mesa, Ariz.

OUR next president faces a formidable task. He will be forced to deal with two difficult wars, an economic downturn, higher energy prices and a bankrupt federal immigration policy.

To some, immigration pales in comparison with the wars and the economy. But for others, especially police departments in border states like mine, it is all-consuming. The first priority of the next president should be legislation that addresses the legitimate concerns of both the people who believe our borders are out of control and those who want equal protection for everyone living in this country.

Immigration issues are tearing apart communities. Demagoguery and misinformation are shaping public opinion and in some cases public policy. In the absence of a clear federal policy on immigration, states and cities are enacting draconian and constitutionally questionable laws.

This patchwork of conflicting local immigration laws is creating an untenable situation for police officials who face demands to crack down on immigrants — demands that contradict policing practices that have led to significant declines in crime.

For police officials, refusing to carry out policies that may violate the Constitution can be career-threatening. Both sides in the immigration debate accuse police departments of misconduct in dealing with immigrants. In this politically charged environment, some chiefs are making decisions based on bad politics instead of sound policing. In many cases, police officers are making illegal arrests with the acquiescence and sometimes explicit approval of their superiors.

Here in Arizona, a wedge is being driven between the local police and some immigrant groups. Some law enforcement agencies are wasting limited resources in operations to appease the public’s thirst for action against illegal immigration regardless of the legal or social consequences.

America’s 500,000 police officers are sworn to enforce the law. But we are increasingly unable to do so. Those who want to restrict immigration criticize us for not arresting immigrants for entering the country illegally. Yet others rightly wonder how we can do our job if some residents are afraid to report crimes or otherwise cooperate with the police for fear of deportation.

Without a national immigration policy, a new culture of lawlessness will increasingly permeate our society. In cities, politicians will pressure police departments to reduce immigration by using racial profiling and harassment. At the same time, immigrants who fear that the police will help deport them will rely less on their local officers and instead give thugs control of their neighborhoods.

Many top law enforcement officials were part of the community policing revolution of the 1980s and ’90s. We have a deep concern for constitutional rights and social justice. We believe that effective policing requires residents, regardless of immigration status, to trust the police.

We are also students of the mistakes of our predecessors. Past police practices helped lead to the civil unrest of the 1960s, which tore our nation apart along racial and political lines. We do not want to repeat those mistakes.

If we become a nation in which the local police are the default enforcers of a failing federal immigration policy, the years of trust that police departments have built up in immigrant communities will vanish. Some minority groups may once again view police officers as armed instruments of government oppression.

A wink and a nod will no longer suffice as an immigration policy. Effective border control is a critical step. But so is ensuring that otherwise law-abiding undocumented immigrants have the same protections as everyone else in a modern, free society.

Presidential candidates need to specify the measures on immigration they would present to Congress after Inauguration Day. No doubt, the advisers to John McCain and Barack Obama are counseling them to be vague. That’s the wrong advice.

America’s police officers deserve thoughtful federal leadership so that we can continue doing our best to provide our country with the security that defines a civilized society.

George Gascón, a former assistant chief in the Los Angeles Police Department, is a lawyer and the chief of the police department in Mesa, Ariz.

for link to NYT article click here

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