This is an obscenity, one that in a more rational city would have civic leaders screaming for the chief’s badge, if not his head. But this is Los Angeles, where one searching for evidence of rationality at city hall will come away disappointed.
In truth, Chief Beck lacks the authority to enact such a policy change on his own. The civilian police commission must endorse the chief’s proposal, something Beck hopes to see accomplished by the end of the year. Before that happens, the commission must air the proposal at at least one public meeting and invite comments from those who might oppose it. Anyone who imagines this to be a hindrance to Beck’s plan surely is not familiar with how things work in Los Angeles.
The five members of the police commission are appointed by the mayor, and are chosen with more regard for checking the correct boxes on the diversity paperwork than they are for any genuine aptitude for the job. They are a political body and can be counted on to do Mayor Villaraigosa’s bidding. Oh, one or two of them might, for appearance’s sake, voice some token objection to Beck’s initiative, but in the end they will all fall dutifully into line and vote to endorse it.
For their part, ICE officials declined to criticize Beck’s proposal too harshly, putting out the kind of bland statement one comes to expect from federal bureaucrats. Said an ICE spokesperson quoted in the Los Angeles Times:
ICE has been dedicated to implementing smart, effective reforms to the immigration system that allow it to focus its resources on criminals, recent border crossers and repeat immigration law violators. The federal government alone sets these priorities and places detainers on individuals arrested on criminal charges to ensure that dangerous criminal aliens and other priority individuals are not released from prisons and jails into our communities.
In other words: “We disagree, but we aren’t going to do anything about it.”
Compare this with the uproar against the state of Arizona when it dared to enact a law that mirrored federal law and authorized local police officers to supplement the efforts of ICE agents in that state. President Obama, Attorney General Holder, and the entire apparatus of the Justice Department were mobilized to thwart Arizona’s efforts, with all involved attempting to portray Arizona Governor Jan Brewer and supporters of the law as reactionaries at best and racist kooks at worst.
Will Chief Beck’s proposal, flying in the face of federal law as it does, be greeted with the same level of hostility in Washington? Of course not. Sympathies in the Obama administration are solidly in line with those of Mayor Villaraigosa and the majority on the city council, so not a single federal finger will be lifted to oppose the plan.
Predictably, the Los Angeles Times has editorialized in favor of Chief Beck’s initiative, echoing his questionable assertion that having local police officers cooperate with immigration authorities erodes public trust:
The governors of New York, Massachusetts, and Illinois have all sought to end participation in the program because it compromises public safety.
Unmentioned in the editorial is the effect of unfettered illegal immigration on the fiscal health of these very states. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, among these states Massachusetts is a model of fiscal probity, with only a 5.5 percent budget shortfall in FY 2012, a figure that is dwarfed by New York’s shortfall of 18.2 percent and Illinois’ 18.5 percent. California makes them all seem frugal by comparison with a budget deficit of 27.8 percent, or $23 billion. Is there anyone who would argue that illegal immigration is not a factor in the fiscal health of these states?
If Chief Beck’s estimate of 750,000 illegal immigrants in Los Angeles is accurate, it would mean they account for just under 20 percent of the city’s population. And as the city becomes more hospitable to illegal immigrants, it becomes less so to American citizens and legal immigrants, who must bear the costs of higher crime, failing schools, and blighted neighborhoods.
The Manhattan Institute reports that from 1990 to 2010, California had the highest level of out-migration in the country, with a net loss of 3.4 million residents who took their skills and incomes to other states. Thanks to Chief Beck and his ideological kin, Californians — Angelenos most especially — now have one more reason to question why they should stay.