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INS Scored as Making Police ‘Political Fools’ : Santa Ana Chief Applauded at Forum on Raid Assistance

Times Staff Writer

Santa Ana Police Chief Raymond C. Davis, an outspoken critic of immigration roundups in his city, charged Tuesday that federal authorities are making “political fools” of police in Orange County by insisting that they assist immigration officers.

“I take great exception with immigration policy. I think they’re making political fools out of local law enforcement people,” Davis said during a luncheon Tuesday in Orange on “Police-Hispanic Cooperation,” sponsored by the Orange County Human Relations Commission.

The luncheon was attended by top state, county, and local law enforcement officials.

As Santa Ana police chief, Davis stirred controversy in 1983 when he made it known to immigration authorities that they weren’t welcome in Santa Ana.

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The policy and its rationale are important to Santa Ana, a city of more than 230,000 people in which immigrants, both documented and illegal, play a crucial role in economic and political life.

Other police departments in Orange County, including Orange and Anaheim, soon followed Santa Ana’s lead and offered less cooperation in immigration raids.

Policies Vary

Police policy on the raids varies from department to department. Typically, when the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service notifies a police department that a raid in its city is planned, the police will monitor traffic in the area and be available in case of an emergency. Some departments allow or encourage officers to help apprehend suspected illegals fleeing a raid.

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Santa Ana’s policy is that its officers will provide traffic control and will intervene in the event of emergency.

Davis spoke after hearing Brea Police Chief Donald Forkus note the difficult role of street officers on immigration enforcement duty.

On one hand, the police are obliged to come to the assistance of immigration officers when called upon, Forkus said.

“At the same time, you want to try to remain sensitive to the Hispanics. I just don’t want us to lose sight of that difficult role,” he said.

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It has been Davis’ contention, and one he reiterated Tuesday, that police have no right to apprehend or arrest an undocumented worker fleeing an immigration raid. Most of the police chiefs present Tuesday said they shared Davis’ view privately, but that it was not their department’s policy.

“The idea that they (immigration officers) are apprehending people and taking them off the streets while Congress discusses bills that could give these (undocumented workers) people amnesty is ridiculous,” Davis said.

“To go further than that, I think it’s improper for local law enforcement to have immigration use us by putting our officers on a perimeter (during raids) to stop people from running in and out (of buildings).

“Somebody should ask the question: What do you stop them for? What gives me a right to stop somebody running down an alley . . . when I’ve got no right to arrest them in the first place?”

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Davis’ comments drew applause from those at the luncheon--among them state law enforcement officials, Latino peace officers and 18 police chiefs from Orange County cities.

In reference to Davis, one official at the luncheon said, “I knew he was controversial, but I didn’t know he had such strong beliefs when it comes to immigration.”

Responding to Davis’ statements, Joseph Flanders, a spokesman for the INS in Los Angeles, said in a telephone interview that federal officials are not asking police to enforce immigration laws.

‘Has to Enforce Laws’

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“He (Davis) has to enforce the laws of the state. We still have the immigration laws as they are, that are mandated by Congress.”

Flanders noted that it is INS policy to notify local police before a raid.

That enables police to be prepared to handle traffic jams, violence or other emergencies that might occur during a raid, Flanders said.

“We’re not asking them to enforce the federal immigration laws, but areas that rightfully are not our province,” he said.

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