For someone much-rumored to be a future mayoral candidate, Salt Lake City Police Chief Chris Burbank yet again made his controversial views on policing and immigration very clear yesterday at a Washington, D.C., hearing.
At the House Judiciary committee yesterday on the Scott Gardener Act -- proposed legislation to permit the police to check the immigration status of people arrested for drunken driving -- Burbank said that the law effectively called for racial profiling. "In essence, this proposed legislation will create a de facto mandatory-detention program."
Such a detention program already exists, attorneys argue, as far as Immigration & Customs Enforcement's pursuit of immigrants without papers who, for whatever charge, end up in the jail system. At that point, they are typically subject to immigration holds, especially if they have past felony and misdemeanor convictions, and end up in front of an immigration judge to explain why they should not be deported.
Burbank said that the proposed legislation could make it only harder for the police to direct their limited resources to stopping the kind of crime that had spawned the original bill, when a four-time DUI-convicted undocumented man killed a North Carolina resident while driving. "The expansion of mandatory detention to any undocumented person who is apprehended but not convicted for a misdemeanor offense ties the hands of the law enforcement system and will result in costly, unnecessary and potentially lengthy detentions," he said.
The bill, he went on, would not only lead to racial profiling, but would also put additional stress on the jails. The Salt Lake County Jail, he noted, releases 700 to 900 criminals monthly because of overcrowding.
He cited the example of a man who had allegedly exposed himself to school children and was booked into jail, only to be kicked out after 45 minutes due to overcrowding issues.
The most recent attempt to enact the Scott Gardener bill, legislation that has been proposed repeatedly since 2005, comes at a time when President Obama's administration has made it clear that the federal foot is supposed to come off the deportation pedal and slow down what had been a ramped-up program of shipping out paperless immigrants with felonies and misdemeanors, no matter how old the crimes.
With Time magazine pointing out on its cover recently that the Latino vote will decide the presidential election, constant pressure both at the federal and state level to continue to deport undocumented Latinos in record numbers will undoubtedly result in the kind of tragic stories City Weekly recently featured in a cover story on deportation and its cost to the local community, as well as its financial benefits to the state.