Should The Cops Enforce The Law?
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The main split in the Bush administration this week seems not to be the widely publicized one between the faction around Colin Powell at the State Department and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz at the Pentagon over whether to invade Iraq this week or next week, but rather between the White House and the Justice Department over a far more mundane question of law enforcement.

Quite simply, Justice thinks local cops should enforce the law; the White House doesn't.

Less simply, the split is between Justice Department officials, apparently including Attorney General John Ashcroft, who want state and local law enforcement agencies to help out enforcing federal laws against illegal immigration, mainly for counter-terrorist reasons, and the Bush White House, which thinks the locals ought not to be involved in what is properly a federal law enforcement function. The Department has drawn up a document declaring that state and local cops have authority to track down illegals; the White House is against acknowledging such authority.

Behind the disagreement is less than meets the eye: not so much different views of constitutional authority or anything quite as inflated, but simply issues of administration and politics. Justice simply doesn't have enough people to track down, round up and adequately investigate the millions of illegal aliens in this country who may or may not be connected to terrorist activities, so it would like the locals to help out a bit.

The locals, however, don't always want to help out. As the New York Times reports on the split among the Bushites, "Many police departments have voiced concern that the new Justice Department proposal would jeopardize their relations with immigrants, who would be less willing to report crimes." "This is a democracy, based on freedom, and people have a right to basic human dignity," whines John R. Robertson, [] chief of police in Newark, Calif. "That means they're not going to be questioned just because of their appearance."

[NY Times , April 29, 2002, Administration Split on Local Role in Terror Fight ]

Of course, the cops can question suspected illegals on any basis they please, but it's sheer pretense to claim that illegal aliens from Latin America don't usually look like Latin Americans. If this is "racial profiling," so what? As for jeopardizing relations with immigrants, how about jeopardizing the security of the country? That's what local cops do when they refuse to enforce federal laws against immigrants who are here illegally. Police bureaucrats like Chief Robertson might learn a bit more about "democracy" if the communities they're supposed to be protecting booted them out of their jobs.

The Bush administration, of course, is less concerned about all the babble about "racial profiling," "alienating Mexico" and similar excuses for not supporting the Justice Department's policy than it is with—you could never guess—the Hispanic vote. As the Times also reports,

"One senior administration official said that unless modified significantly, the proposal could lead to racial profiling and lawsuits resulting from police abuses, strain relations with Latin American nations and alienate Hispanic voters who Republicans are courting for the midterm elections in November."

So much for the "war on terrorism."

The administration is entirely willing to blast Afghan villagers to splinters and threaten war against whatever imaginary "axis of evil" its speech writers can concoct, but when it comes to taking elementary measures inside this country to secure our borders and apprehend illegal aliens, it refuses to budge.

Put bluntly, the administration can't take a pit stop without first pondering the political implications and how it might exploit the situation to pander even more.

There is every obvious reason for local and state police to arrest suspected illegals, even without the terrorist threat that continues to loom over the nation's head. Just because violation of the immigration laws is a federal offense doesn't mean locals can't arrest people who commit it. Bank robbing and kidnapping are also federal offenses. Would the Bush White House seriously claim that local police shouldn't stop bank robbers and kidnappers if they have the chance?

"If these people are in violation of the law," Jim Pasco, executive director of the Fraternal Order of Police, told the Times, "then state, local and federal police have an obligation to move against violators of immigration law." What the policy conflict inside the bowels of the Bush government tells us is that there is no "war on terrorism" at all if such a war threatens to curb the flow of illegals essential for cheap labor and cheap votes.

It's just as well for the security of the country that Osama bin Laden and his brood don't hail from Mexico or some other neighboring country that supplies the labor and the votes the administration and its cronies crave.

If they did, the White House might be suggesting plausible reasons why we really didn't need the World Trade Center anyway.


May 02, 2002

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