By Spencer S. Hsu
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, May 27, 2010; A03
Arizona's new crackdown on illegal immigration will increase crime in U.S. cities, not reduce it, by driving a wedge between police and immigrant communities, police chiefs from several of the state's and the nation's largest cities said Wednesday.
Arizona's law will intimidate crime victims and witnesses who are illegal immigrants and divert police from investigating more serious crimes, chiefs from Los Angeles, Houston and Philadelphia said before meeting with Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. to discuss the measure. Counterparts from Phoenix, Tucson, San Jose and Montgomery County, among others, joined them.
"This is not a law that increases public safety. This is a bill that makes it much harder for us to do our jobs," Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck said. "Crime will go up if this becomes law in Arizona or in any other state."
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, four states have introduced their own versions of the Arizona law, which defines illegal immigration as criminal trespassing and requires police to request documents of anyone they stop and have a "reasonable suspicion" is in the country illegally.
Recent public opinion polls indicate that as many as 70 percent of Americans surveyed support such a police requirement. The American Civil Liberties Union and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund have filed lawsuits to stop the Arizona law, arguing that the Constitution preempts states from enforcing federal law and that the measure will lead to racial profiling. The U.S. Justice Department, which Holder heads, is also weighing whether to file suit.
While the Arizona Association of Chiefs of Police opposes the new law, elected sheriffs including Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu, head of the Arizona Sheriff's Association, back it.
Babeu said cooperation from illegal immigrants, particularly those coming from Mexico, is already low because they are in the United States illegally and because of law enforcement corruption in their native countries.
"The people of Arizona believe the overall majority of Americans are not only supportive of this law, but that our measure of generosity has been crossed, a line has been crossed," Babeu said.