EDITORIAL: Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety Chief Jeff Hadley has it right

Chief Hadley's policy practical and humane

Kalamazoo Gazette (Michigan)
July 15, 2009 Wednesday

In a draft, Hadley has reinforced his assurances, given a year ago when he took his job, that undocumented immigrants are not at risk for deportation if they seek help or otherwise come in contact with local police.

Hadley emphasized that his people will not be involved in the enforcement of federal immigration laws. His department's policy prohibits his officers from soliciting immigration status for traffic violations and nonviolent crimes.

"We have people in our community living in the shadows, afraid to come out and seek out help," Hadley remarked last week to an audience of more than 600 gathered in an auditorium at the Kalamazoo County Expo Center & Fairground.

The meeting was sponsored by the Michigan Organizing Project, a West Michigan church-based advocacy group for social and economic change. Hadley anticipates that his draft will be finalized next month following review by his department's police unions.

At first blush, Hadley's policy might appear suspect. After all, isn't it the duty of all citizens, especially the police, to enforce the laws of our land? Many Kalamazoo Gazette readers, in comments about our online story last week, hold that view.

However, the issue of illegal immigrants living in our country, state and community is complicated and, arguably, intractable. For a long time, and without resolution, Congress has been wrestling with the vexing problem of illegal immigration. That's a lightning-rod issue not likely to be settled in the near future, if ever.

Moreover, there is more than a touch of hypocrisy regarding this subject. Among the millions of people in this country illegally, many of them are doing jobs that American citizens don't want to do. In agriculture, for example, seasonal workers -- whether here legally or not -- are indispensable for many growers during the harvest.

Indeed, many different kinds of employers look the other way in regard to the legal status of their employees for very practical reasons.

Chief Hadley's position should not be construed to mean that he's not in favor of controlling immigration. What is relevant is his sensitivity and keen awareness that many undocumented residents are afraid to report crimes to his department, even if they are victims.

Moreover, budget constraints at all levels of government have resulted in the need to focus the limited resources of law enforcement. Kalamazoo's police have enough to do in dealing with all types of crime, enforcing traffic laws and other ordinances without taking on the burden of becoming involved in the immigration dilemma.

There's also a practical side to this issue. If, with impunity, undocumented residents can report offenses to the authorities, the entire community could see a long-term plus in crime reduction.

We hope to see meaningful benefits from Hadley's policy, which is both practical and humane.

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