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ACLU Opposes Federal Pilot Project to Grant Immigration Authority to Salt Lake City Police

27 August 1998 Published in Local Policy Work

ACLU of Utah Sends Letter to Salt Lake City Council Opposing Federal Pilot Project to Grant Immigration Authority to Salt Lake City Police


 August 28, 1998

M. Bryce Jolley, Chair
Salt Lake City Council
451 South State Street #304
Salt Lake City, UT 84111

Dear Mr. Jolley,

I am writing on behalf of the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah to express our strong opposition to the federal pilot program that would further complicate an already complex and potentially volatile situation by granting INS authority to Salt Lake City police officers. Our organization is gravely concerned that if such a program were approved, it will result in increased civil rights violations against Latinos and other people of color, and will diminish the effectiveness of the Salt Lake City Police Department. We therefore urge the Salt Lake City Council to vote against this pilot program.

Throughout the country, immigrant communities have suffered increased civil rights abuses when immigration and law enforcement officials have tried to integrate their duties. Exercising their newfound INS authority, police officers who are untrained and inexperienced in immigration issues inevitably resort to crude and unlawful profiling, singling out individuals based on their ethnicity or appearance. One of the most appalling examples is last year’s experience in Chandler, Arizona, where the Chandler Police Department and the INS/Border Patrol conducted a joint operation to address what the City of Chandler determined to be a high number of illegal aliens in the city. In an investigation into the huge number of subsequent complaints, the Arizona Attorney General noted that among other infractions, many Chandler residents were stopped "for no other apparent reason than their skin color or Mexican appearance or use of the Spanish language." While the Memorandum of Understanding between Salt Lake City and the INS requires that deputized police officers receive training in immigration issues, it remains vague about its extent or content, and recently reported patterns of existing propensities do not auger well.

In addition, the integration of law enforcement and immigration duties will have a chilling effect on community policing efforts in immigrant communities. Effective law enforcement depends upon the trust and cooperation of community residents. If this pilot program were to go into effect, crime victims and witnesses will be much less likely to cooperate with the police. If it is perceived that by reporting a crime, a person’s immigration status will be investigated, then criminal activity will go unreported and unpunished. Undocumented women who are victims of domestic violence, for example, will be particularly reluctant to report such crimes to the police for fear of deportation. Even those with legal status will be fearful of coming forward if they reside with family members who are undocumented. It is for these reasons that police departments in Los Angeles, Raleigh, and other U.S. cities, have been most successful in reducing crime when they have explicitly stated that they are not in any way associated with the INS.

In determining whether to approve the pilot project, the Salt Lake City Council must consider the constitutional rights of all city residents, including immigrants. Thank you for your consideration in this very important matter, and please feel free to call our offices if you have any questions about this issue.


Stephen C. Clark
ACLU of Utah Legal Director