Patch gathered questions from readers, for Mayor David Gonzalez. Now, Patch will regularly air a series of video responses to the questions readers voted as most pressing.
In this segment, Gonzalez is answering a question on whether the City of Chicago Heights will crackdown on undocumented immigrants.
His answer? No way.
Interesting question. It’s no secret that immigration law is set by the Constitution of the United States of America. It is the federal government’s responsibility to set policy for immigration. It is the federal government’s to enforce immigration law. It is not the responsibility of the State. It is not the responsibility of local government.
We have seen that there are some areas in other states or cities that want to work with the federal government and take some kind of proactive approach in trying to help them on illegal immigration, but we have to understand where we live here. The city of Chicago Heights is a very, very diverse community and we’ve got a very, very high immigrant population in the city.
Back in the 1980s the police community started coming up with a program on how do they start reducing crime. This was nationwide, and they came up with this program that was the community policing. The community policing was: How do we get more residents involved and how do we start building that trust factor between law enforcement and residents? Because if we can build that trust factor between the residents and law enforcement, you have residents that can come and say, “Hey, I’ve been the victim of a crime.” “Hey, I’ve seen a crime. I can help you.” But there has to be that trust factor. Community policing has been very, very effective throughout this country, including Chicago Heights here too.
The statistics of community policing has seen that violent crime has actually decreased where you have strong community policing. Now, I say this because we have to have that trust factor with our immigrant population. Whether you’re black. Whether you’re white. Whether you’re Hispanic, Italian. Whether you’re here illegally or not, we have to maintain that trust factor.
In these other towns that are high in immigrant population that are trying it, they are finding out that it’s backfiring on them. Here’s what they’re doing in these other towns. They’re going in there saying, “Local enforcement, we’re going to try to help the federal government with immigration status.” What you’re doing is you’re decreasing that trust factor with those immigrants, because of racial profiling. Now those immigrants, whether they’re legal or illegal, don’t want to come to the police department to report a crime. (Let’s) say that they’re a victim. They don’t want to do anything to help law enforcement, and it’s not because they don’t want to help. It’s because of their fear of their immigration status. That trust factor starts to go down in those communities, and what happens? Crime starts increasing.
So here in Chicago Heights, we don’t want that. We want our residents to feel comfortable with the police department, regardless of their immigration status. And what we’re going to do as a police department is, if you have code violations, you have local ordinances you’re violating . . . we’re going to enforce those ordinances based on you doing something wrong or needing to comply with something, and never ever based on your immigration status.
I think we would be doing a disservice in a community that has such a high immigration population to ever even try to entertain the fact of trying to police and help the federal government crackdown on illegal immigration in the city of Chicago Heights. It would be a detriment to us.