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The Chief Is Right

It is refreshing to note that Santa Ana Police Chief Raymond C. Davis has not wavered in his refusal to involve local police in neighborhood raids by U.S. immigration officials.

Davis attracted national attention in 1983 when he called the neighborhood raids by the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service “wasteful and worthless,” and said that local police should not be drawn into them.

At a “Police-Hispanic” luncheon Tuesday, sponsored by the Orange County Human Relations Commission to promote good relations between police and the Latino community, Davis made it clear that he had not changed his mind.

He said that it is ridiculous for immigration officers to be picking undocumented workers off the streets while Congress discusses amnesty for them. He also said that the immigration service is “making political fools out of local law-enforcement people.”

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More law-enforcement officials should see it his way. In Santa Ana, where about 25% of the city’s more than 230,000 residents are believed to be illegal immigrants, the policy is to provide traffic control and to intervene only in an emergency. Some other Orange County departments allow or encourage police to help immigration officers apprehend suspected illegals during raids.

Earlier this month the arrest of a Cal State Fullerton student who was on his way to class by a campus police officer and an INS agent touched off protests about the university’s part in the arrest.

It’s a touchy situation, but police involvement in such raids obviously puts strains on the cooperative relationship that police are seeking with the Latino community. If local police are perceived as extensions of the immigration service, it can only diminish the trust that police are trying to establish so that more minority residents will report crimes and help in prosecuting criminals.

Davis has suggested that local law-enforcement officials work out some policy with the immigration service. It is a problem that Orange County police agencies ought to address. There should be more uniformity--and less local involvement in federal immigration officers’ neighborhood forays.

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