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Commentary: Costa Mesa's immigrant community shouldn't fear President Trump's policies

There's an old Chinese blessing, or maybe it's a curse, that goes, "May you live in interesting times." That sure applies to modern-day politics, on the federal, state and local levels.

Our new president, Donald Trump, has initiated several controversial moves, including a travel ban applied to seven countries, a border wall and plans to deport up to 8 million undocumented residents who have been convicted or accused of crimes.

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These new immigration policies have drawn fire from human-rights activists and the American Civil Liberties Union. The travel ban sparked intense protests and is now under judicial review.

In response to Trump's actions, the California Legislature has taken steps to fast-track a law (Senate Bill 54) prohibiting local law enforcement agencies "from using resources to investigate, interrogate, detain, detect, report, or arrest persons for immigration enforcement purposes."

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So where does all this leave Costa Mesa?

In Costa Mesa, we have a large Latino population, including many undocumented residents. The atmosphere in that community is tense to say the least.

Although the president's policies do not target victims of crimes for deportation (as opposed to those accused of crimes), undocumented residents are hesitant to engage the government in any way out of fear that contact with the police could lead to deportation.

While some applaud Trump's efforts to curtail illegal immigration, an unintended consequence of his polices could result in increased crime against our entire community as criminals prey with impunity upon a vulnerable group — undocumented residents.

I see this as a matter of public safety for our community, not just undocumented residents. Leaving one segment of the population gripped in fear of authority undermines our efforts to keep our city safe.

Instead, all victims of crime should be reassured that the Costa Mesa Police Department will not initiate immigration action if they call for service. It is not Costa Mesa's policy to do so, nor do I expect that it ever will be.

All Costa Mesa residents should feel it is safe to seek help from our police officers; that includes U.S. citizens, green card and visa holders and undocumented residents. This is a matter of public safety, fundamental human rights and social justice that should not be subject to debate.

JOHN STEPHENS is a Costa Mesa city councilman.

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