Opinion Brief

Will Arizona's immigration law boost crime?

Police chiefs warn it will. Several Arizona sheriffs disagree. Who's right?

Police chiefs from several of Arizona's largest cities say the state's tough new immigration law will help criminals — echoing a criticism expressed by Attorney General Eric Holder. Illegal immigrants who are crime victims or witnesses will be less likely to go to the police, said the Arizona police chiefs, because the new law requires officers to demand papers from anyone suspected of being in the country illegally. But several Arizona sheriffs support the crackdown, saying most illegal immigrants are already afraid to cooperate with police. Will the the new law make it harder for officers to do their jobs? (Watch a Fox report about Arizona's law and crime rates)

Of course this will make police work tougher: The police chiefs have a "valid argument," says Doug Mataconis in Outside the Beltway. If Arizona's law makes illegal immigrants look at local police as "little more than agents of the Federal immigration authorities, then, obviously, someone who is the victim of a crime is going to be less likely to report that crime, or cooperate with investigating officers."
"Law enforcement officials fear Arizona-like immigration laws will deter from crime fighting"

The status quo isn't working: As the sheriffs say, "cooperation from illegal aliens is already low," says Heather MacDonald in National Review. But the real hole in the police chiefs' argument is the "tired" assertion that it's up to the federal government to fix things. Without a sudden burst of commitment from Washington, there's no way to solve the illegal immigration problem "without also involving local law enforcement."
"Big-city police chiefs and the Arizona law"

Expect Holder to challenge the law: Arizona can't just shrug off the police chiefs' criticism, says Peter Grier in The Christian Science Monitor. Holder has told Congress that Arizona's law could lead to racial profiling and drive a wedge between police and the public. Now that he has the people on the front lines against crime backing him up, Holder is almost certain to challenge Arizona's law in court.
"Police chiefs pan Arizona immigration law: Federal lawsuit coming?"

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