In Los Angeles, where the distinctions between the citizen and the non-citizen are often little more than abstractions, they are one step closer to vanishing altogether.
That such a thing should occur in Los Angeles comes as no surprise to anyone paying even the slightest attention to recent trends in the city’s governance. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is famously sympathetic to the cause of illegal immigrants, and most members of the city council hold similar views. So if the latest assault on the rule of law as it pertains to illegal immigrants in L.A. had sprung from the mind of this or that empty-headed liberal politician, it would scarcely be worth notice other than as cause for regret among the declining number of residents who find such things objectionable.
But this time it’s different. The latest affront to American citizenship and the rule of law comes from Charlie Beck, chief of the Los Angeles Police Department, who now advocates that officers in his department ignore federal law by declining to honor requests from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials that some illegal immigrants in LAPD custody be detained for deportation proceedings.
If Beck has his way, illegal immigrants arrested by LAPD officers for crimes the chief considers “petty” will not be held for ICE officers, even if the arrested person is already marked for deportation. This comes only months after the LAPD, at Beck’s urging, altered long-standing policy by making it easier for illegal immigrants — who cannot be issued driver’s licenses in California — to avoid having their cars impounded after being stopped for a traffic violation.
Beck justified this latest proposal by saying that the federal government’s policy of deporting illegal immigrants after arrests for minor crimes has “eroded public trust” in a city where, by Beck’s account, 750,000 illegal immigrants reside. (In 2010, I attended a meeting where Beck put the figure at 600,000. How much more accommodating will he be when the number tops one million? And with the police chief rolling out the welcome mat to anyone with the will and the means to come over the border and settle in L.A., why won’t it?)
The Los Angeles Times characterized the chief’s motives thus:
Beck portrayed the move as necessary to counter federal laws that require local police to share information with federal immigration officials about arrests. (Emphasis added)
Consider: the chief of police in America’s second-largest city has come to the opinion that certain federal laws are inconvenient for a large number of people living illegally in his city, and that therefore his department must enact policies that “counter federal laws.”