The passage of Arizona’s law targeting illegal immigrants should sound alarms all over the country. While many have denounced this law as overly harsh, it is a natural offshoot of a wave of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and local police partnerships that are rapidly changing the way law enforcement operates in communities — with devastating consequences.
The blurring of the roles of local police, who are there to preserve public safety, and immigration enforcement, a federal responsibility, comes at the expense of one of the most significant advances in local law enforcement: community policing.
After 25 years as a D.C. police officer, I can say with confidence that building relationships with the community is fundamental to preventing and solving crimes. When trust is replaced by fear of deportation, everyone’s public safety is compromised.
Washington is not Arizona, but that doesn’t mean this trend hasn’t arrived here. In November, D.C. Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier signed an agreement with ICE to implement a little-known program deceivingly called “Secure Communities.” The initiative comes on the heels of the failed 287(g) program, an effort to train local officers to enforce federal immigration law. Like many localities around the country, the District balked at 287(g). But Secure Communities is nothing more than 287(g) rebranded.