The International Association of Chiefs of Police, the world’s oldest and largest coalition of law enforcement executives, yesterday announced its opposition to a pending House bill giving state and local law enforcement agencies jurisdiction to enforce U.S. immigration law.
IACP President Joseph Estey, chief of the Hartford, Vt., police department, in speaking out for the first time on the issue, urged Congress to proceed with caution when considering the Clear Law Enforcement for Criminal Alien Removal (CLEAR) Act, saying it could significantly effect state, tribal and local law enforcement agencies and the communities they serve.
“The IACP opposes any plan that would coerce local and state law enforcement agencies to enforce federal immigration laws without their approval,” Chief Estey said. The IACP has 18,500 members in 92 countries.
“Many leaders in the law enforcement community have serious concerns about the chilling effect any measure of this nature would have on legal and illegal aliens reporting criminal activity or assisting police in criminal investigations,” he said.
The CLEAR Act, sponsored by Rep. Charlie Norwood, Georgia Republican, would give 600,000 state and local police officers authority to enforce federal immigration law during the course of their normal duties. Introduced in July 2003, the bill also would give police agencies access to the National Crime Information Center for immigration information.
The bill is pending before the House Judiciary subcommittee on immigration, border security and claims. In addition to 125 bipartisan congressional co-sponsors, the bill has been endorsed by more than 50 national, regional and local law enforcement organizations, including the National Sheriffs’ Association, the Law Enforcement Alliance of America and the Southern States Police Benevolent Association Inc.
Mr. Norwood said yesterday that he was “not surprised in the least” by the group’s decision, saying the IACP represents political appointees, not rank-and-file officers.
“Political appointees answer to those individuals who put them in position in the first place. That’s why I’m particularly proud of the courageous stand individual police chiefs supporting the CLEAR Act have made,” he said. “Meanwhile, I continue to be honored that our nation’s rank-and-file officers are overwhelmingly supporting CLEAR Act.
“I’m humbled that over 50 law enforcement groups representing rank-and-file officers have endorsed this critically important bill,” he said.
The IACP also released a report, “Enforcing Immigration Law: The Role of State, Tribal and Local Law Enforcement,” outlining its concerns about state and local law enforcement agencies enforcing federal immigration law.
The report concludes, among other things, that because the question of state, tribal or local participation in immigration enforcement is a local decision, any legislative proposal to enlist the assistance of nonfederal agencies in immigration enforcement must be based on voluntary cooperation.
The report said the bill would “penalize states” by withholding federal assistance funds if they failed to authorize state and local law enforcement agencies to enforce immigration laws. It said the act also would penalize state and local law enforcement agencies by withholding federal assistance funds if the agencies failed to meet detailed reporting requirements about suspected illegal immigrants who are apprehended.
“Police chiefs know what is best for their communities and should be the ones to decide whether or not their agencies will be involved in enforcing federal immigration laws,” Chief Estey said. “The CLEAR Act’s reliance on sanctions is bad for local law enforcement agencies.”