Immigration and Community Safety; How does one Influence the Other?

10th Amendment Constitution Illegal immigration immigration and government Police Reform race relations Sanctuary cities Special order No. 4

Special Order No. 40; I heard of this policy on one of the podcasts that I listen to, and thought that was really smart thinking. This post is the result of my research on this topic.  After reading about this I gained a lot of respect and admiration for the late Darryl F Gates, Los Angeles Police Chief 1978 – 1992.  Chief Gates has been accused of aggressive policing in LA, however in the interest of public safety and community collaboration with law enforcement enacted this very important policy.  This rule prohibited LA police officers from initiating contact with anyone for the sole purpose of learning their immigration status. The rule  prohibited his local police officers to be involved in arrests for the sole purpose of violation of U.S. immigration law.

Over the years this rule has been adopted in various forms by many other police departments across the country. Such cities and municipalities have been named sanctuary cities. Today the Trump administration in its aggressive stance on illegal immigration is looking at this policy and making efforts to withhold federal law enforcement funding from cities and counties that have adopted this policy. There are currently more than 400 sanctuary cities in the US today. The Trump administration’s efforts to force such jurisdictions especially big cities like Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco to change policies related to local policing and immigration may have little real impact.

Over several decades police departments have come to realize and accept that these policies kept their cities safe. Unfortunately, the constant wrangling over such issues is not conducive to the health of both legal and illegal immigrants in this country.  Below is a bar chart representing US immigrants in the corrections system by crime type.


Immigration-and-violent-and -nonviolent-in-US
Crimes statistics for immigrants in our correctional facilities – Source: The Sentencing Project

The graph does suggest that of the 29,166 immigrants in US correctional facilities across the country in 2014 only 8% of these were incarcerated as violent offenders.  This confirms a well know fact that immigrants do not pose a public safety threat to US citizens counter to what President Trump keeps repeating. Repeating this false claim over and over does not make it true.

To calm the fears of LA residents, police Chief Charlie Beck said his department will follow its decades-old policy of keeping officers focused on local crimes, leaving federal violations such as entering the country illegally in the hands of immigration officials. The threats did have some impact; he reported that since January 2017 there has been a 25% drop in sexual assault and 10% reduction domestic violence reports by Latino women. Some counselors involved in cases of domestic abuse involving Latino women reported that some complainants had withdrawn their cases.  These withdrawals are due to fears among these women that either they themselves or their abusers could be deported if they went forward with their cases.

The economic benefits of tighter and aggressive immigrations statutes and its impact on public safety in this country has been seen by many individuals involved in these issues to be mostly negative. When Darryl Gates proposed Special Order #40 he was looking out for the safety of his community. This is the number one reason why this has been adopted by more than 400 cities and counties across the county. Up until his death in 2010 Chief Gates supported this policy which has come under attack by several presidents and politicians in various municipalities.

Special Order No.40 has not only survived close to 40 decades in its city of origin Los Angeles; it has actually been adopted by several cities and counties across the country. If tougher immigration enforcement breeds crime then I believe our law enforcement officials will know better.


Data from The Sentencing Project on immigration and crime  – Source Sentencing Project

After 38 years Special Order No. 40 a policy enacted by a Los Angeles Police Chief who was accused of racism in several instances still survives today, more than 7 years after his death.  Today in America the seed that was planted by Darryl Gates which has flourished and spread far across the country is under attack by the Trump administration. Our president has promised to keep us safe and I would like to believe that he is sincere when he says he is for public safety. Any attempt at using reduction in federal law enforcement funding to force cities to change a policy that most police officers believe works to satisfy a small minority of his electorate is federal overreach and violates the 10th Amendment.

I would like to remind Mr. Trump that he did not win the popular vote he only won 46.1% of the popular vote and Hillary Clinton won 48.2%. A recent poll suggests that only 30% of republicans and 11% of democrats support tougher immigration enforcement. A nationwide poll if done will likely show his executive order on illegal immigration is not supported by a majority of American voters.  Efforts to rollback sanctuary laws is mostly unpopular among local law enforcement. Our president does not know our cities better than our local law enforcement. As Americans we trust the decisions of our local municipalities on how best to keep us safe. I don’t believe Americans want our presidents to determine how our police departments should function to keep us safe.

Dr. Leonard Sowah is an internal medicine physician in Baltimore, Maryland 

Feature photo: Darryl F Gates, LAPD Police Chief during 1992 riots who was frequently accused of racism but crafted Special Order #4 in a bid to improve community safety


A physician providing primary medical care to patients across the lifespan

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