HPD chief visits DC to meet about immigration issues

May 26, 2010 4:18:38 PM PDT
Should police be in charge of enforcing immigration? It has been the subject of a nationwide debate, even more so now with a strict new immigration law in Arizona. On Wednesday, Houston Police Chief Charles McClelland joined police chiefs from nine other cities to meet with the U.S. Attorney General over concerns about immigration.

The chief's trip was funded in part by the Police Executive Research Forum, a group that shares a general consensus of concern over the new immigration law in Arizona.

As police chief after police chief voiced concern over the Arizona law, Chief McClelland seemed to sound neutral on the issue.

"I think the federal government should bring clarity to this issue and define the roles of federal state and local law enforcement agencies and then support it with resources with whatever decision that they make," he said in D.C. on Wednesday.

Back here in Houston, one city council member found it concerning the chief would associate himself to those with such opposition to the law.

"I don't think our Houston police chief needs to be in D.C. lobbying against this," said Council Member Mike Sullivan.

He believes that Houston needs to follow something similar to what Arizona passed, giving more authority to officers to enforce immigration laws. Currently, Houston police officers are not allowed to ask a person's legal status until they end up in jail.

"Houston has said that it's not a sanctuary city for years, but we continue to act like one," said Sullivan.

In recent years, the Houston Police Department has seen numerous officers die at the hands of illegal immigrants, including Officer Henry Canales, whose case is being heard this week.

The Houston Police Officers' Union supports tougher local authority.

"The officers want the tool to be able to ask this in the event that we need to," said Ray Hunt of the HPOU.

However, civil rights groups fear expanding immigration laws locally would lead to profiling. There's also the issue of expending resources to do a job most agree is a federal issue.

Council Member C.O. Bradford says he doesn't blame Chief McClelland for seeking a little advice.

"I would say let's do it all, but unfortunately, in today's environment, we don't have those types of resources," said Bradford. "What do you want your local officers doing? How do you want them spending their time?"

An HPD spokesperson said the chief has no position on the Arizona immigration law.

We also spoke with a spokesperson from Houston Mayor Annise Parker's office who told us she has no interest in any similar law here in Houston.

The U.S. Department of Justice is looking into whether the law is unconstitutional. The Justice Department concluded Arizona overstepped its authority by enforcing the immigration law and that the law has potential for abuse.

On Tuesday, the president said he plans to send 1,200 National Guard troops to the U.S.-Mexico border. He also plans to request $500 million for border protection. Critics argue that it's simply not enough to secure the border.


Load Comments