Police departments have joined immigrant rights advocates in denouncing the Clear Law Enforcement for Criminal Alien Removal (CLEAR) Act, H.R. 2671. The proposed law would require local police departments to enforce federal immigration laws or face losing critical federal reimbursements.

“We don’t have the time and the personnel to be immigration agents. Murderers, rapists, robbers, thieves and drug dealers present a much bigger threat than any illegal immigrant,” South Tucson Police Chief Sixto Molina told the Tucson Citizen. According to the National Immigration Forum, the bill adds significantly to the daily responsibilities of local law enforcement with no guarantee that they will be reimbursed for their time and efforts.

The bill also mandates entry of civil immigration information into the FBI-maintained database of wanted persons. Millions of new names would be added to this database.

The number one risk of local police acting as INS agents “is the potential for civil rights violations,” Ventura County Sheriff’s Department spokesperson Eric Nishimoto told the Ventura County Star. “Right now we’re involved in preventing any kind of racial profiling and this type of function could open us to that kind of risk,” he added.

One provision of the Clear Act “encourages” police participation by awarding them assets seized from undocumented immigrants.

El Paso Municipal Police Officers’ Association President Chris McGill told the El Paso Times, “From a law-enforcement point of view, I don’t know how productive it would be to have police officers ask for green cards. It’s more important that people feel confident calling the police.”

Opposition to the new immigration approach comes from the National Association of Counties, the National League of Cities and the U.S./Mexico Border Counties Coalition, according to the National Immigration Forum. San Joaquin County Sheriff Lt. Armando Mayoya worries that if police officers start reporting to the INS, more undocumented workers could wind up as victims. “Criminals soon would realize that undocumented workers would be unlikely to call police for fear of being deported and target them for attacks. Racial profiling could also intensify if police are tasked with upholding immigration laws,” he told the Dallas Morning News.

The CLEAR Act has already been introduced in the House and is scheduled for hearing Nov. 20 in the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Immigration.

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