ACLU of Florida Opposes Local Police Enforcement of Immigration Laws

May 9, 2002 12:00 am


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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

MIAMI– In a letter sent today to members of the Miami-Dade County Commission, the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida urged officials to enact an ordinance opposing a Justice Department initiative that would give local and state police the power to enforce immigration laws.

“While we expect local police to cooperate with federal authorities in apprehending anyone, including non-citizens, who is suspected of criminal activity,” said Howard Simon, Executive Director of the ACLU of Florida, “local police should not be in the business of detaining or arresting law-abiding aliens based on their immigration status.”

In the letter, the ACLU charges that the Justice Department proposal would hinder crime-fighting efforts and increase distrust of police in immigrant and refugee communities. The ACLU urges commissioners to follow the lead of city officials in Los Angeles and New York — two municipalities that have passed ordinances safeguarding the responsibilities of local police to fight crime and protect the community — in refusing to enforce immigration laws.

Last month, the Justice Department leaked a controversial legal memo to United States Attorney General John Ashcroft that would reverse a long-standing tradition of leaving immigration matters in the hands of the federal Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). If issued, the internal legal ruling would clear the way for local police to be forced to arrest and detain people for suspected immigration violations.

Lida Rodriguez-Taseff, President of ACLU’s Greater Miami Chapter, said that deputizing local police as immigration agents would greatly increase distrust of police in immigrant and refugee communities. “How willing will undocumented immigrants be to assist the police by reporting crimes, much less testifying about them, if they know the next step may be deportation?” said Rodriguez-Taseff, who pointed out that training for local police officers would add an unnecessary financial burden on an already overburdened county budget.

The Ashcroft plan has drawn ire from local immigrant advocates as well, including the Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center, the League of United Latin American Citizens and the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, who organized a press conference on April 24 to protest the proposed policy. It has also drawn opposition from police officials throughout Miami-Dade County.

In addition to the letter, the ACLU submitted draft language to the Commission. To read the letter and draft language go to /Files/Files.cfm?ID=10370&c=184.

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