View From Lodi, CA: To Eliminate Illegal Immigration—Empower the Local Police!

Memorial Day weekend Lodi News-Sentinel story,

Should Lodi police crack down on illegals?
Armstrong, Lodi News-Sentinel, May 27, 2006
 asked whether Lodi

should, under certain circumstances, exercise
a federal option to detain illegal aliens.

When read in conjunction with subsequent Armstrong
pieces on June 9th and June 13th
about crime and

gang activity
on East Locust Street, concerned
citizens can make an outstanding case for

enabling local police

enforce immigration laws
. [Stepping
up to the plate on Locust Street
, Jake
Armstrong, Lodi News-Sentinel, June 9, 2006 ;

Locust Street Residents seek solutions,
Armstrong, Lodi News-Sentinel, June 13, 2006]

The Locust Street neighborhood is home to hundreds of
illegal aliens at least some of who are involved in

or other criminal behavior.

Dozens of Lodi law
enforcement officers patrol the community, all day,
every day. Last night, I saw a patrolman combing the
area on bicycle. They know their beat and can spot in an
instant when things are out of sync. Any out of the
ordinary behavior jumps out at them.

Yet when it comes to

enforcing immigration laws
, these officers are a

largely untapped resource
. While police have the
option to notify Immigration and Customs Enforcement, it
is done on a case-by-case basis.

But the overriding
factor should be whether or not law enforcement action
on immigration status might make the community safer.
And if the answer is yes, then officers should report
aliens to federal authorities.

According Armstrong,
Capt. David Mann says that getting

gang members
—or cholos—out of the
neighborhood would remove a burden from the shoulders of
Lodi police.

What better way to
lighten law enforcement`s load than to begin deportation
proceedings, if suspects are illegally residing in the

All state, county, and
municipal law enforcement officers swear to uphold the
law including the U.S. Constitution.

In a 1996 Department
of Justice

legal opinion
put it, “It is well-settled that
state law enforcement officers are permitted to enforce
federal statutes where such enforcement activities do
not impair federal regulatory interests.”

But some have
philosophical objections to using local police in any
role that involves immigration.

Immigrant activists
claim that police involvement
would create a

atmosphere. But again, the question becomes
what is best for Lodi`s common good: ignoring illegal
aliens at the expense of the rights and liberties of
U.S. citizens or moving to have

aliens deported?

Others claim that
localized immigration enforcement would reduce
cooperation by

ethnic communities
with the police. According to
them, if police took on immigration enforcement, illegal
aliens would not report crimes and police departments
would lose their trust, they say.

But this theory is
speculation. And, no one contemplates a

police round up of illegal aliens

mass deportations.

What`s proposed is
that local officers, as they come into contact with
suspects in their daily rounds, pursue
immigration-related indicators during traffic stops or
other routine encounters.

Besides, there are
occasions in which an officer might decide not to ask
about immigration status, such as when someone calls for
help in an emergency. But police should be able to
exercise authority in immigration matters when
circumstances dictate.

Officers face other
challenges, too, such as not having access to timely
information about immigration violators.

Municipal budgets are
strained. Small cities like

don`t have the jail space to detain aliens or
the resources to transfer them to federal facilities.

And there is always
the threat of a

violation of rights” lawsuit
brought by the

American Civil Liberties Union
or some other liberal
legal entity.

Despite all the
obstacles, local police and city fathers want to do the
right thing for Lodians.

And the right thing
for the well being of Lodi residents is to hold
immigration violators accountable. The possibility of
being deported—now

virtually non-existent
—would serve as a deterrent
and fewer people would be likely to enter the U.S.

If the goal is to

end illegal immigration
, which everyone agrees on,
then the first step is to grant greater authority to the
local police.

Joe Guzzardi [email
him], an instructor in English
at the Lodi Adult School, has been writing a weekly
column since 1988. It currently appears in the

Lodi News-Sentinel