Police Chief George Gascon Says Arizona Immigration Law Lets Thugs Run Wild

Categories: Crime, Immigration
Gascon by Shawn Calhoun.jpg
...Gascon says Arizona law will lead to lawlessness
San Francisco Police Chief George Gascon -- known for locking horns with anti-immigrant demagogue Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County while Gascon served as chief of police in Mesa, Arizona -- said the Grand Canyon State's much-maligned immigration law will cause a "vacuum where criminal elements are going to increasingly take over neighborhoods."

The Department of Justice today filed suit in Arizona federal court against SB 1070 today, arguing the legislation invades federal immigration officials' domain, and requesting a temporary injunction prior to the law's greenlight date of July 29.

Gascon was one of two police chiefs to speak in an afternoon conference call set up by the Center for American Progress. Today's media event came one day after news that calls the San Francisco Police Department's own position on enforcing federal immigration laws into question: Police discovered that a Salvadorean national pulled over at a routine traffic stop last month in the Ingleside District had a federal immigration warrant. They arrested the driver -- but before even arriving at the county jail, immigration officials had already informed the sheriff's department they wanted the suspect. It is unclear who tipped off the feds. 
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Gascon didn't mention this episode. But what he did say implied that this kind of instance degrades cops' ability to fight crime. When he was the police chief in Mesa, his department focused on not profiling race, but criminal behavior. As a result, people with shaky immigration status could trust that, for example, reporting the drug dealer down the street wouldn't get them deported. The crime rate dropped 30 percent in his three-year tenure.

The chief says SB 1070 will instead make good officers go bad: "It's going to be extremely difficult for police to follow without breaking the law. ...You're going to be pushed into using race as a predictor of bad behavior rather than a descriptor of a criminal event. So I think well-intentioned officers are going to cross the line."

Photo of Gascon | Shawn Calhoun

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