WASHINGTON – Arizona's new immigration law and similar proposals in other states would lead to an increase in crime, some police chiefs from around the country told Attorney General Eric Holder in an hourlong meeting Wednesday.
The chiefs told the attorney general that having to determine whether a person is in the United States illegally will break down the trust that police have built in communities and will divert law enforcement resources away from fighting crime.
If that happens, "we will be unable to do our jobs," said Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck. "Laws like this will actually increase crime, not decrease crime."
Tucson Police Chief Roberto Villasenor said the requirements of the new law are so burdensome that "we doubt the federal government can even handle the numbers of people we will bring to them" on immigration status.
The new law "puts Arizona law enforcement right in the middle" at a time when police budgets are already in crisis, said John Harris, president of the Arizona Association of Chiefs of Police.
The Obama administration is weighing a possible court challenge to the Arizona law and "the attorney general said he would be making decisions fairly quickly," though he did not elaborate, said Harris, who is police chief in Sahuarita, Ariz.
The chiefs, who spoke to reporters after the hourlong meeting with Holder, said the subject of filing a lawsuit never came up.
Holder has expressed reservations about the new law, saying it could lead to racial profiling. Three weeks ago, the Justice Department's civil rights division head told some Arizona leaders that DOJ staff is analyzing the potential effects of the new state law.
Arizona immigration law empowers police to question anyone they suspect of being in the country illegally.
The other police chiefs in the meeting were from Philadelphia, Houston, Minneapolis, San Jose, Salt Lake City and Montgomery County, Md.