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Column 071210 Brewer

Monday, July 12, 2010

Illegal Immigration is a Confusing Position for Police

By Jerry Brewer

As the U.S. federal government aggressively wrestles with Governor Jan Brewer’s decision to implement Arizona’s new immigration law, there are many state and local law enforcement officials who are misguided by much of the political posturing and flexing. 

Vagueness and vacillation by some on this controversial but critical issue is not a panacea for perverting form over substance.  The Justice Department on behalf of the policies of President Barack Obama states that this law “illegally intrudes on federal prerogatives,” and further states that federal law “trumps state statutes.”  

On the frontlines of non-federal law enforcement, officers mandated by state and local government law and policies to go beyond the generic duties of protecting and serving is a more complex and arduous mission.  That mission includes the safeguarding of human life and property, as well as investigating violations of law and other criminal acts.

The proverbial line in the sand on this political issue is nothing more than an international border.  That border is a 2,000 mile legal but porous avenue of human movement.

The border has been traditionally the primary enforcement domain of federal law enforcement agencies such as the U.S. Border Patrol and ICE.  They are also responsible for every other U.S. point of entry including the U.S. coastline and a Canadian border over 5,000 miles wide.  You would be hard pressed to hear from many federal agents that they can perform that immense task without local law enforcement’s help and support.  That mutual assistance is a critical and inherent structure of a democratic and proactive enforcement model of effective policing. It is simply a team effort.

Canada wrestled with many problems similar to the U.S. regarding immigration, jobs, and terrorism concerns.  Of the nearly 17 million immigrants who poured into Canada between 1970 and 1993, only 17 percent were classified as coming from majority-white countries.  Among the latter were nonwhite second-time immigrants.

Proactive law enforcement leaders and administrators throughout the nation clearly know now that they have many obligations far beyond the scope that they may have imagined or perceived only a decade ago.  Adequately understanding the metamorphosis of traditional policing to a model of anti-terrorism policing initiatives, and the true sophistication of this new transnational threat is not easy.  The reality is they are tasked today with a more global approach to crime and interdiction that uniquely challenges skills, resources and personnel.

More so on the southern borders at this time is the illegal immigration threat that also manifests itself with the terrorism threat.  Not being soothsayers police must be able to determine immigration status of suspected human traffickers, narcotraffickers, assassins/enforcers, weapons smugglers, and transnational criminal recidivists that routinely return sometimes just days after being returned to their country.  Police would of course need “reasonable suspicion.”  The majority of these criminals will not necessarily be “obvious” in their modus operandi.

The recruiting, transportation, and eventual harboring of “trafficked” persons by force, as well as for prostitution and forced labor and servitude, must be confronted on the frontlines.  This form of interdiction is almost impossible without proper documentation and the determination of the country of origin.

Human trafficking is the fastest growing criminal industry in the world, tied with the illegal arms industry as the second largest, after the drug-trade.  There are an "estimated 600,000 to 820,000 men, women, and children trafficked across international borders each year.”  Local police must not bury their heads in the sand on these real issues, nor expect an abundance of federal agents to come running.

The claims that the Arizona law would result in police harassment, the detention of foreign visitors and legal immigrants, and other perceived acts of abuses of power are not rational arguments unless the ethics, trust, or criminal nature of police is indeed suspect.  In that case, as in any other U.S. police interdiction, the act(s) should be reported and documented, as well as properly investigated.

Too, the claim by some that this form of interdiction would result in poor community relations, scare victims from reporting crimes, as well as racial profiling, fall flat.  For these issues have been troubling police administrations nationwide for decades, especially for those of us that have been police administrators in high-violent-crime corridors and predominately minority-based jurisdictions. 

This transition would require training and associated professional development in immigration enforcement and/or detainment.  A necessity that is no different to all law enforcement personnel that must upgrade skills due to situations that become operationally required.

Traditional policing in this nation is over, and all crimes and hazards must be confronted.  As well, the federal government will not want to go this awesome endeavor alone.


Jerry Brewer is C.E.O. of Criminal Justice International Associates, a global risk mitigation firm headquartered in Miami, Florida.  His website is located at www.cjiausa.org.

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