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Richardson: Mesa PD’s use of 287(g) has contributed to low crime, successful community engagement programs

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Bill Richardson

Guadalupe García de Rayos was deported to Mexico after being convicted of a Class 6 felony. It’s the law that felons be deported even though she was convicted of a politically motivated law, championed by a crazy Arizona Legislature, an out of control ex-county sheriff and a now disbarred county attorney.

The law isn’t always fair and since there are questions about her legal representation and the failure to get her low-grade felony designated a misdemeanor and escaping immigration scrutiny, she’s stuck with being deported.

As sad as it is, the emotion surrounding the heavy-handed enforcement by immigration agents shouldn’t be the driving force in how local enforcement and elected officials move forward on the issue of criminal aliens and illegal alien gangs in their communities.

While Garcia de Rayos’ deportation has brought out the protesters who invoke the past abuses of ex-Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the vast majority of local law enforcement efforts that engaged criminal aliens with federal law was strictly by the book.

Protestors and politicians, and some police officials, use the term 287(g), the federal law that allows local police to enforce immigration laws, like an F-bomb in church. When used properly and with the discretion all law enforcement officers have, police can take immediate enforcement action against a criminal alien who presents a current or ongoing threat. You get the criminals any way you can as long as it’s legal and you do it quickly and not wait days for the feds to show up.

News stories about Glendale, Phoenix, Tempe and Tucson police and the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office resisting using immigration laws at their disposal is exactly what will make those communities semi-sanctuary cities and that much more unsafe.

Police officials talk incessantly about community trust; instead they should be talking about the police taking enforcement action against identifiable threats regardless of the status of the offender. People trust the police when they do their jobs and not ignore criminals that threaten them.

Considering the gang and crime problems that threaten Glendale, Phoenix, Tempe, Tucson and parts of Maricopa County, you’d think they’d want to use every law available to enhance safety for everyone? WRONG!

By law enforcement officials entering into the immigration discussion on the side of non-enforcement, they’ve sent a quiet message to officers not to get near it and to criminals that they can escape immigration scrutiny from them.

Targeting criminal aliens and using 287(g) should be one of the foundations of the “intelligence led policing” and “best policing practices” police administrators incessantly talk about. Using immigration laws to target a single criminal, an enterprise, location or a gang is no different from using the liquor laws to target trouble spots that sell alcohol or where illegal drinking takes place that generates crime of all kinds. Local police do that every day.

The Mesa Police Department’s intelligent use of 287(g) has no doubt contributed to Mesa’s successful efforts to drop crime while having one of the most successful and trusted community engagement programs in all of law enforcement. 

García de Rayos’ deportation was sad but the non-emotional discussion local police and elected officials should be having about immigration laws is how they’re going to use all legal means, including using 287(g) when appropriate, to keep us safe.

– Bill Richardson is a retired Mesa police detective.

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