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Being Pro Immigrant Is So In This Season

Shawn Jain,
Media Strategist,
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January 24, 2014

Wake up in the morning feeling not like P.Diddy (sorry, Ke$ha), but instead feeling like wow, another official is saying something really pro-immigrant, and it’s fantastic.

Today, it’s Dayton Police Chief Richard S. Biehl (in Speaker Boehner’s backyard), who published an opinion editorial in Roll Call that is staunchly opposed to the terrible SAFE Act, a bill pending in the House of Representatives that would allow all 50 states and all localities to enact their own immigration enforcement laws. Here’s some of what Biehl specifically said:

What I know from my professional experience is that the so-called SAFE Act, a bill pending in the House that would allow all 50 states and all localities to enact their own immigration enforcement laws, would be an unmitigated disaster and should not be used as a the vehicle to jump-start immigration reform. In spite of its misleading name, it would actually make our communities less safe.

As The New York Times noted in a profile of our city’s welcoming attitude toward immigrants, one of the ways we’ve been able to make our city safer is to foster a sense of trust with our immigrant communities. As I noted in the article, ‘If we have any group of citizens who are afraid to talk to us or don’t trust us, that’s going to compromise our ability to produce public safety.’

Like other cities, the Dayton Police Department works hard to build trust with our community members so that they are not afraid to work with us if they are witnesses to or victims of crime. Our officers do not check the immigration status of witnesses and victims. Nor do we ask about legal status during minor traffic stops.

These policies allow us to focus our limited resources on our primary mission — crime solving and community safety. They also send the message that victims of violent crime, human trafficking and other crimes should never be afraid to reach out for help due to fear of the immigration consequences. Since Dayton adopted these policies and innovative ways of addressing crime problems, our crime rates have significantly declined. In the past three years, serious violent crime has dropped nearly 22 percent while serious property crime has gone down almost 15 percent…

…Numerous local law enforcement officials across the country agree that they do not have the time, resources or expertise to engage in immigration enforcement. Any law that would require us to do so would wrongly delegate to us an unreasonable task and cause us to compromise our core mission of ensuring public safety.

The SAFE Act is unworkable, and I sincerely urge the House to abandon this bad idea in the interest of public safety in Dayton and in cities across the country. There are better ways to jump start the debate on comprehensive immigration reform in the House.

Biehl’s commentary comes on the heels of Gov. Rick Snyder’s (R-Mich.) announcement yesterday that he is seeking federal help in bringing 50,000 immigrants to help stop the exodus out of Detroit. And as we pointed out in an earlier blog, in 2013, over a dozen states approved one or more significant pro-immigrant measures.

States and localities are increasingly recognizing the value of treating all people fairly, regardless of immigration status – and asserting that immigration enforcement should remain the job of the federal government. We hope that Congress takes notice and passes a comprehensive immigration reform bill in 2014 we can all be proud of.

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