Who are the police? Why should we trust them? Why should we call them when they don’t help? They want to get me in trouble right?
These are the kind of questions immigrants ask when they have to deal with the police. Undocumented immigrants are afraid, and skeptical of the police because of their experience with ICE agents, which has led them to be in constant fear of authority. As a result, millions of undocumented immigrants end up not calling the police when they are in desperate need of help. They are afraid of the police, who are supposed to be considered the protectors of the community. So why do so many undocumented immigrants have this fear for the police in the first place?
This fear has not gone unnoticed by the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD). LAPD Chief Charlie Beck has recently tried to encourage undocumented immigrants to not fear the police by publically voicing his opinions about immigration. Beck is tolerant of undocumented immigrants and in public “spoke in favor of issuing driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants [and] last month, he took that stance a large step further, announcing that suspected illegal immigrants arrested for low-level crimes would no longer be turned over to federal authorities for deportation”. The fact that he has publically reached out to the immigrant community has been very controversial, but Beck is willing to take the risk; all he wants is for the immigrant population in LA to see their police department as a friend, not an enemy.
Beck says that “he is driven to act on some level by his sense that he can and should help level the playing field for illegal immigrants, whom he said have suffered unfairly from crude federal immigration laws.” It is important to protect the rights of the undocumented immigrants who are living in a state that is pro-immigration, and that is exactly what Chief Beck is doing. For example, California has been seen as the state that attracts more undocumented immigrants because California is more tolerant and does not have laws that severely punish undocumented immigrants, like Arizona.
I think LAPD chief officer Beck is doing a great job in reaching out to the entire immigrant community. However, my main concern is why isn’t Beck setting a precedent for other police officials around this country as well? What other changes can be done so that undocumented immigrants can trust the police officers in their communities? Instead of our own police chiefs publically stating their acceptance of immigrants and proposing new laws and regulations, shouldn’t our federal government be doing this? What do you think?