In an effort to gain crime reports and witness testimonies, Los Angeles Police Department Chief Charlie Beck announced through a series of public service announcements that LAPD officers would stand by Special Order 40, a policy that forbids officers to stop people exclusively based on their immigration status.
However, the immigrant community might no RSVP to Beck’s invitation.
Although Special Order 40, a court-mandated arrangement since 1979, might provide a sense of relief to some undocumented immigrants, the majority of the community will remain skeptical of any arm of law enforcement. The fear of being deported will remain until the negative rhetoric toward immigration is changed in this country.
“Being stopped by the police seems like the end [to an undocumented individual],” said Pedro Trujillo, an AB 540 student and co-founder of CSUN’s Dreams To Be Heard, an undocumented student support organization. “Regardless of Special Order 40, people will still be fearful.”
It is hard to build a base of trust when “undocumented immigrant” or “illegal alien” are words used to describe workers, mothers, children and students. These people have no sense of belonging in this country.
Moreover, this community has seen all types of racial profiling and discrimination cases that have left them scarred.
In September 2010, an immigrant man was fatally shot by an LAPD officer in West Lake Village. The LAPD alleged he had a knife and was threatening people while one witness said he had no weapon. This sparked protests and vigils against discrimination throughout the immigrant community.
But credit has to be given to Beck. He has released these PSAs in a time when immigration is a controversial topic and the immigrant community needs to hear them.
Especially when Judicial Watch, a conservative foundation, has filed lawsuits against the measure in the past calling it a violation of federal law and a risk to citizens. In their argument against Special Order 40, they have referred to cases in which undocumented criminals are the main suspects of violent crimes.
According to their website, “Special Order 40 is an illegal policy that places the citizens of Los Angeles (and the nation) at risk.”
However, recent studies by the Hamilton Project of the Brooking’s Institute show that immigrants commit less crime and make up less of the incarcerated population per capita than U.S. citizens.
The truth of the matter is every law enforcement institution will look like a predator to the immigrant community until a foundation of trust is established.
“We are pleased chief Beck has once again shown strong support of Special Order 40,” said Jorge-Mario Cabrera, director of communications at Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles. “We expect the chief’s sentiments and overtures to the immigrant community to become daily parlance rank and file as well.”
The argument here is not based on crime ratings in the immigrant community, it is based on families and individuals and the confidence they have to muster to report crime activity and right now, there is definitely a lack of trust.