ImmigrationPolice chiefs oppose proposed Texas immigration measure

Published 15 June 2011

Texas governor Rick Perry wants the legislature to pass a measure which would prohibit local police agencies from barring their officers from asking people they pull over, or otherwise detain, about their legal status in the United States; police chiefs from Houston and Dallas say the bill would impose additional costs on their already-strained budgets and would end up hampering public safety, because it would force them to divert resources and manpower to dealing with undocumented immigrants rather than criminals

Politics makes for strange bedfellow. A case in point: in Texas, the police chiefs of the state’s major cities joined with immigration advocates to oppose an immigration enforcement measure Governor Rick Perry asked the Texas legislature to consider in a special session. The Senate Transportation and Homeland Security Committee held public hearing on the measure Monday.

Fox News reports that the bill would prohibit local law enforcement agencies from formulating policies which would bar their officers from asking people who are pulled over or detained for other reasons from asking these people whether or not they are in the United States legally. Police agencies adopting such policies would be prohibited from receiving state’s grants.

The immigration advocates say the bill would lead to discrimination because Hispanic-looking would be more likely to be asked to prove their legal status in the country. The police chiefs, however, opposed the bill because they say it would be too costly and would hamper police work. Houston Police Chief Charles McClelland Jr. and Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez said at the Monday hearing that the bill would end up undermining public safety. “Jails should have the room for people we are afraid of, not the people we are upset with,” Valdez said.

Fox News reports that McClelland estimated it would cost his department more than $4 million to train 5,000 Houston police on immigration matters. Valdez said the proposed bill would cost her jail an extra $467,000 a month to house immigration violators until they are picked up by federal immigration officers.