There’s a bad idea afoot on the political right that may soon be translated into a bad law. The idea is that law enforcement officers — everyone from beat cops to sheriff’s deputies to highway patrol officers — must be enlisted in immigration enforcement.
Many law enforcement officials coast to coast adamantly oppose this idea — although most police departments already assist federal immigration agents when necessary. But where many police draw the line is enforcement actions that may lose the trust of whole immigrant communities.
Crime is more easily prevented and solved with the cooperation of communities. When people fear the police, that relationship is undercut. You can’t have people fearful that every 911 emergency or a call to get help for domestic violence might trigger a deportation of someone in the household.
Nevertheless, the Texas legislature is hell-bent on ensuring that outcome. After 16 hours of debate that began Wednesday and ended Thursday, it passed an amendment that allows law enforcement to ask about immigration status as a part of routine policing, even if a person isn’t under arrest.
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Here is how Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo summed up the measure on Twitter: “Violent crime is on rise across our Nation & some would rather men & women in blue go after cooks & nannies, instead of hardened criminals.”
The proposal is part of a bill to punish “sanctuary cities,” even though its backers admit that Texas has no such jurisdictions. So how did the idea that all police ought to be doing the bidding of federal agents germinate?
Behold “The Quintessential Force Multiplier: The Inherent Authority of Local Police to Make Immigration Arrests.” It’s a 2005 publication written for the Albany Law Review. The author is Kris Kobach, Kansas secretary of state and a longtime adviser on immigration within Republican circles.
The article lays out Kobach’s view that a legal framework exists for what President Donald Trump has called a national deportation force. One interesting thing to note, however, is that Kobach doesn’t insist that such tag-teaming on immigration duties should be mandatory. “It is essential to recognize that any assistance that state or local police provide to the federal government in the enforcement of federal immigration laws is entirely voluntary,” he wrote.
But he also dismisses the arguments that most police make when pushing back, calling the idea that undocumented people can help police solve crimes “dubious, at best.”
A day before the Texas House began its epic debate on the sanctuary bill, Kobach backpedaled on his D.C. aspirations. Many have speculated that he might get a role in the Trump White House, maybe as a deputy secretary for Homeland Security. He announced on Fox News that he would remain in Kansas to possibly run for governor in 2018.
Reportedly, Trump got leery. He’s having enough trouble with his immigration schemes, some of which Kobach promoted.
Also this week, a court halted the Trump executive order that sought to withhold federal funding as a way to punish cities that don’t fully cooperate with federal immigration enforcement.
Distancing from Kobach is another sign of the continuing re-education of Trump. He’s learning that rants that played well on the campaign trail don’t translate well into actual policy.
Kobach is the mastermind behind the much-ridiculed theory of self-deportation. That’s the notion that if you make life miserable enough for undocumented immigrants, they will pack up their U.S.-born children, quit their jobs, sever family ties and head back to the country they fled. Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican candidate for president, bought into Kobach’s theory and it helped deep-six his bid for the White House.
Kobach has also cost small jurisdictions enormous amounts in court fees when they latched onto his theories on immigration, passing ordinances that later proved to be indefensible in court.
But there is still Texas.
Some would say that Kobach is an “architect” of tough immigration laws. A more honest assessment is to say that he is a Pied Piper to the courthouse, where he’ll leave the gullible followers with hefty legal bills.
Kobach certainly got one of his next set of politicians lassoed up like Texas longhorns, ready to head off to their own slaughter.