San Diego police won’t act as immigration officers, mayor says

San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, on the left, and Tijuana Mayor Juan Manuel Gastelum, center, walk into the historic Casa de la Cultura in Tijuana on March 13.
(Alejandro Tamayo / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer says that San Diego will not participate in a federal program where local police perform the duties of immigration officers.

In a March 15 memo to the City Council, Faulconer reaffirmed that the city’s police department will not take part in a provision of the Immigration and Nationality Act that allows the federal government to enter into agreements with state and local law enforcement agencies to enforce immigration law.

“Such an agreement would essentially task local law enforcement officers with doing the job of the federal government and places an unfair financial burden on local taxpayers,” Faulconer’s memo says.

The mayor says city police officers do not stop people exclusively to determine their immigration status, and they do not ask the immigration status of people who are victims or witnesses of crimes. If a person is suspected of committing a crime, however, San Diego’s police officers work with regional, state and federal authorities to hold them accountable regardless of their immigration status.

“Our police department is committed to protecting everyone in our community and bringing criminals to justice,” he said in the memo. “The stronger the partnerships are between law enforcement and residents, the more successful we will be at keeping our neighborhoods safe.”


Some local law enforcement officials in San Diego and elsewhere have expressed concern that if their officers become involved in front-line immigration enforcement, it would detract from crime-fighting efforts because witnesses would be reluctant to come forward.

The memo reinforces the mayor’s continued non-endorsement of the new administration’s immigration policies. His recent comments in reaction to tougher policies from President Trump have reiterated the benefits of legal immigration and the importance of the cross-border relationship between San Diego and Tijuana to the region’s economy, culture and social fabric.

The mayor’s office issued the memo in response to a request from Councilmen David Alvarez and Chris Ward, and Councilwoman Georgette Gomez.

Stewart writes for the San Diego Union-Tribune.


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