Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper stood up for the rule of law today. Responding to criticism that the city’s lax immigration enforcement policy in some way contributed to the killing of Denver Police Detective Don Young, the Mayor said,

Local government’s role is not to arrest, confine or expel those without valid visas….Our policy is to follow the interpretation of federal law.”

Hickenlooper further explained:

Hickenlooper said it would not be practical for police to take down the names of those suspected to be illegal during traffic stops and forward them to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials.

Not only would such a practice cause people to fear the police, it would “encourage police officers to make subjective judgments based on someone’s appearance, and many people would consider that a form of racial profiling,” he said.

Besides, Hickenlooper said, the immigration agency “has already made it clear that they do not have the resources or manpower to pursue minor traffic offenses.”

I’m surprised that former Governor Dick Lamm is among those faulting the Mayor:

“I am a real fan of Mayor Hickenlooper and think him the best mayor in my lifetime,” Lamm said in an e-mail. “However, he fails completely to confront the issue of illegal immigration.”

First off, having local police enforce immigration laws , as the Mayor said, is likley to increase racial profiling. Second, many immigration violations are civil, not criminal offenses. Overstaying one’s visa, for example, is a civil matter, not a crime. We don’t ask the Denver Police to go out and collect taxes from those who are late paying the IRS, why should we have them track down potential deportees?

Third, having police enforce immigration laws would be harmful to women who are victims of domestic violence. They would be in danger of losing the protections guaranteed them under the Violence Against Women Act, which were designed to ” ensure that immigrant women would not have to fear deportation if they reported abuse and other violence to local law enforcement authorities.”

The ACLU has more here on how proposed laws that require local police to enforce federal immigration rules will:

  • undermine terrorism efforts
  • put communities at risk
  • overburden our police departments
  • unduly tax our financial resources

The murder of Detective Don Young was a tragedy and a crime. We should not compound it by enacting ill-advised, feel-good measures that won’t prevent its re-occurrence but will overtax our already burdened criminal justice resources, thereby jeopardizing the entire community.