First priority for police are local matters

Freedom New Mexico

Widespread public interest in getting local police more involved with federal immigration law should not become an unfunded mandate that usurps local control to focus on a problem that’s not even a crime.

So we applaud Ariz. Gov. Janet Napolitano’s veto last week of House Bill 2807. It was an important and politically difficult stand that could be a pivotal moment of her administration.

Police and sheriff’s deputies have little choice but to cope with immigration questions; it’s an unpleasant fact of life that much of the public now connects illegal immigration to common criminal activity despite reliable evidence that foreigners are not more likely than native-born Americans to harm others.

But the exact responsibilities that police assume for immigration enforcement should be determined by each community based on the resources and expertise available.

Napolitano noted in her veto letter that the federal government only has $5.5 million a year to provide immigration enforcement training for police nationwide. HB2807 required the state to pick up any unmet expenses, which Napolitano estimated at $100 million.

An unfunded mandate from above to satisfy popular whims likely would prompt some police agencies to cut corners, to trample on civil rights or to ignore other concerns that rightfully fall within their domain.

This is particularly troubling as residing in the United States without government permission is a violation of federal law but is not a crime. The only penalty is deportation, whereas a criminal violation entails at the least the possibility of a jail sentence.

We have to agree with Mesa, Ariz., Police Chief George Gasc