Los Angeles officials are demanding that Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents stop identifying themselves as “police” when initiating contact with suspects. After an L.A. Times story described a recent ICE house call where the agents greeted the suspect with, “Good morning, police,” the mayor, city attorney, and president of the city council fired off a letter to the agency asking them to stop using that term.
Mayor Eric Garcetti, City Attorney Mike Feuer, and City Council president Herb Wesson wrote, “In Los Angeles, the term ‘police’ is synonymous with the Los Angeles Police Department, so for ICE agents to represent themselves as police misleads the public into believing they are interacting with LAPD. This is especially corrosive given that to advance public safety, the LAPD does not initiate police action with the objective of determining a person’s immigration status.”
While the officials acknowledged that it was not illegal for ICE to use the term “police” when presenting themselves to suspects, they say it is a deceptive tactic used to trick illegal immigrants into cooperating – a strategy that then undermines the trust local police have forged with the undocumented community.
“There is something fundamentally unfair about ICE exploiting local and state policies that are trying to improve public safety by promoting immigrants’ trust in law enforcement,” Attorney Frances Miriam Kreimer told the L.A. Times.
Virginia Kice, an ICE spokeswoman, said agents used the terminology not solely for deceptive purposes, but also for their own security.
“In the often dangerous law enforcement arena,” Kice said, “being able to immediately identify yourself as law enforcement may be a life-or-death issue.”
In nearly every paper reporting this story, the writer goes out of their way to say that ICE agents cannot force their way into someone’s home without a warrant. This bit of information is apparently meant to explain why ICE agents “lie” to people when they come to the door; they need the person’s permission so they can enter the home.
Well, guess what: Police – of any kind – are subject to the same rules! Absent hot pursuit or probable cause, no police officer can start turning over your couch cushions without a court warrant. So why make the distinction? The only reason is to make it seem like ICE agents are not really police, even though they’re sorta-kinda allowed to call themselves that. That’s hugely misleading. They ARE police, and they are bound by the same constitutional limitations as the LAPD.
The argument at the heart of all this is that illegal immigrants will “go back into the shadows” and no longer cooperate openly and freely with local police. But where’s the hard evidence that this situation even exists now? Plenty of top police officers from immigrant-heavy cities say there is already significant mistrust in those communities when it comes to law enforcement, even in places that designate themselves “sanctuaries.” Liberal Democrats and immigrant activist groups keep making this claim, but no one ever calls on them to prove it.
At the end of the day, what are we talking about here? We’re talking about the constitutional rights of people who are not citizens, people who broke the law to come here, and people who are breaking the law every single day they remain in this country. We’re not saying those rights are non-existent or unimportant, but…let’s try to keep a little perspective here.