Challenging Myths about Immigrants and Immigration: A seven-part series

Immigrants and immigration-related identities are among the many important stories of faculty, staff, and students in our diverse MC community. Thus this series seeks to challenge harmful myths surrounding immigrants and immigration, with each reflection focused on challenging a particular myth. Facts and statistics presented in the series come from a resource called “Common Myths about Immigrants and Immigration in Tennessee” that was developed by Allies of Knoxville’s Immigrant Neighbors (AKIN) and adapted by Blount County United (BCU) Education Committee and Blount County Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ). “Common Myths about Immigrants and Immigration in Tennessee,” 2011. 

This is the seventh and final part in the series.

Fact #7: Our immigration system cannot be fixed with local enforcement of federal immigration law. 

In fact, effective local law enforcement depends on developing trust with the community, not doing the job of the federal government. The Major Cities Chiefs of Police reject any new role in immigration enforcement because it would compromise their primary mission: to ensure the safety of our communities (MCCP statement on immigration). If the police asked every victim of a crime for immigration papers, immigrant victims would cease to report crimes, making them easy targets, increasing the overall crime rate, and putting every Tennessean at greater risk. State and local attempts to fix a federal problem promise instead to create a patchwork of inconsistent laws across the nation, divide our communities, threaten public safety, and escalate anti-immigrant sentiment and discrimination.

Reflection by MARIA VANEGAS 

This country is my home, and I want what is best for it; I do not believe continuing to draw a divide among minority communities and police officers is the best choice. Local law enforcement officers are not trained or taught how to enforce federal immigration policies, and therefore, should not hold that power.

As an immigrant and DACA recipient, the thought of having local law enforcement act as Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents makes me uneasy.

When I was younger, I had a negative experience with a police officer disobeying the law and mistreating my dad and brother. Even though I was about eight years old at the time, I remember what it felt like to be looked down on because of where we came from.

That being said, I know there are many police officers in our country who work hard to protect their communities, sometimes at the expense of their safety.

Most minority groups in the United States already have tense relationships with law enforcement. In addition, this is a time where many people in the U.S. do not feel safe and do not trust the people that are supposed to be protecting us. Anti-immigrant sentiments are been said by leaders of the nation, leaders who are elected to represent ALL of the people in the United States.

Giving local law enforcement more authority would likely result in the inhumane treatment of more immigrants and members of the Hispanic community. In many ways, we are already treated as second class citizens and this would only make it harder for us to report crimes.

This country is my home, and I want what is best for it; I do not believe continuing to draw a divide among minority communities and police officers is the best choice. Local law enforcement officers are not trained or taught how to enforce federal immigration policies, and therefore, should not hold that power.

Having had a negative experience in the past and being aware of the reality many minorities groups face with police officers, I feel very uncomfortable with the idea of local law enforcement doing the work of a federal law enforcement agent.

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