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Guest opinion

Magnus: Sessions’s anti-immigrant policies will make cities more dangerous

Tucson police chief published op-ed in NY Times

In an opinion piece published in the New York Times, Tucson's police chief said Trump administration policies meant to punish so-called "sanctuary cities" serve to interfere with the ability of local law enforcement to police communities. Here are a few short excepts:

As the police chief here, I’m deeply troubled by the Trump administration’s campaign against “sanctuary cities,” which refuse to turn over undocumented immigrants to federal authorities. Washington is trying to retaliate against them by withholding funding for things like crime prevention, drug treatment and mental health programs.

Tucson is not technically a sanctuary city. But we are close to the border with Mexico and take pride in being welcoming to immigrants. Yet the government has warned us that our grants are in danger.

Still, while federal judges in Chicago and San Francisco have ruled against President Trump’s executive order to withhold money from sanctuary cities, the administration’s crackdown on immigrants is already having a chilling effect on police-community relations here. Many community members have told me that Latinos are not turning to us for help or working with us as often as they have in the past. Their growing sense of fear and distrust is clearly a consequence of the anti-immigrant rhetoric coming from Mr. Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

The Justice Department could be playing a key role in building on the Obama-era policing reforms that many of my fellow police chiefs strongly support. Instead, the changes it wants to make — to force local police officers to cooperate much more closely with federal immigration authorities — will compromise public safety by reducing community confidence in law enforcement.

***

The message from Washington is that cities need to refocus on “law and order.” Yet the harsh anti-immigrant rhetoric and Mr. Sessions’s reckless policies ignore a basic reality known by most good cops and prosecutors: If people are afraid of the police, if they fear they may become separated from their families or harshly interrogated based on their immigration status, they won’t report crimes or come forward as witnesses.

When crime victims and witnesses are unwilling to testify because they’re afraid an Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent will be waiting to arrest them at the courtroom doors, real criminals go unpunished. It means drug dealers and people who commit domestic and sexual violence are free to exploit a voiceless class of victims; such criminals become a threat to us all.

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Read the full opinion piece in the New York Times.

TucsonSentinel.com's original reporting and curation of border and immigration news is generously supported in part by a grant from the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation.

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Dylan Smith/TucsonSentinel.com

Magnus was sworn in as Tucson's police chief in March 2016.

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TucsonSentinel.com publishes analysis and commentary from a variety of community members, experts, and interest groups as a catalyst for a healthy civic conversation; we welcome your comments. As an organization, we don't endorse candidates or back specific legislation. All opinions are those of the individual authors.