Texas police chiefs and sheriffs condemned efforts to make them act as de-facto Border Patrol agents, saying that law enforcement, not the Legislature, knows how to keep communities safe.The Texas Tribune's Julian Aguilar had a related story titled "Will immigration laws silence crime victims?"
El Paso County Sheriff Richard Wiles joined other law enforcement officials from Dallas and Travis counties and the cities of McAllen, San Antonio and Austin on Thursday at the state Capitol. The group denounced Arizona-style legislation, which they say would pull their deputies and officers out of neighborhoods and impose more costs when lawmakers are cutting funding to cope with a budget deficit of up to $27 billion.
They said such legislation could cost taxpayers millions of dollars to house undocumented immigrants in state jails, pay for officer training and fight any lawsuits that may arise. In addition, they said, it would dismantle the trust that law enforcement has established with communities, making people less willing to report crimes.
"If you want to test this, pass it and see how many days it will take you to start crying for 'We need judges, we need prosecutors, we need prison beds, we need local jail space,'" McAllen Police Chief Victor Rodriguez said during a meeting with aides for state lawmakers.
More than 40 bills that target undocumented immigrants have been filed in Texas.
Some bills want law enforcement to arrest a person for violating a state criminal trespassing law if police have "probable cause to believe" the person is in the country without legal documentation. Others would deny state money to cities or counties that do not enforce federal immigration laws.
But Wiles said immigration is a federal issue and El Paso taxpayers should not have to take on an undue burden just because the city is on the border.
Quite a few self-styled conservatives claim to favor requiring local law enforcement to engage in immigration enforcement. (At least, I hear the argument made frequently.) But as a practical matter that's simultaneously a call for a big, fat unfunded mandate and inevitably local tax increases to pay for "judges ... prosecutors ... prisons ... [and] local jail space."
This is Big Government Conservatism of a brand that's antithetical to the conservatism of Goldwater or Reagan, less government and lower taxes, and it's years like this one, with government at all levels struggling to make budgets, when that fundamental contradiction becomes most acute.