Op-ed: Politics, Public Safety, and Immigrants

(Photo/Creative Commons/Britt Selvitelle)

Curtis Sliwa, the founder of a volunteer anti-crime organization, recently stood alongside a political candidate in Massapequa Park to oppose “sanctuary cities” on Long Island, News 12 reported.

In endorsing one particular candidate over another, Sliwa said the opposition aims to create a “sanctuary to MS-13,” while claiming his candidate would actually keep “illegal aliens” safer. For starters, one should be dubious of an endorser that refers to a population they aim to keep safe with dehumanizing terms.

While Sliwa’s sentiments have been repeated as the party line by anti-immigrant rhetoricians across the country often using Long Island as their example of a region overrun by gangs research shows that sanctuary city policies can actually reduce crime.

As Long Island Wins has previously reported, there is research that shows that sanctuary policies can reduce crime. Further, in counties where law enforcement officials work closely with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), there is a marked decrease in cooperation with police.

“The research that exists, including my own, suggests either that counties with sanctuary policies have less crime than comparable non-sanctuary counties, or that there is no statistically significant relationship between city sanctuary policies and increased crime rates,” wrote Tom Wong, author of the research study and associate professor of political science at the University of California at San Diego.

It is unthinkable that those who oppose sane immigration policies believe that their “opposition” believes that MS-13 should have a safe haven within immigrant communities. Public safety is as much a priority for immigrant advocates as with anyone else. However, dragnet-style policies force immigrant communities underground, essentially blinding law enforcement’s eyes on the ground.

In Nassau County, the director of the district attorney’s Office of Immigrant Affairs told the Long Island Herald earlier this year that in spite of assurances that witnesses and victims won’t be questioned about immigration status, immigrants are wary of reaching out. Compared with more than 70 calls in 2016, director Silvia Finkelstein said her office received just three calls in 2017.

Luis Valenzuela, Long Island Immigrant Alliance Executive Director, affirmed what immigrants and their advocates already know in speaking with News 12 as a counterpoint to Sliwa’s comments.

“The only way that our police can work with our communities is to build relationships of trust. Distrust makes us all insecure.”

Immigrants know their own communities best. Police must be able to earn their trust if they are to acquire the best intelligence and leads on public safety threats. Recently, we have learned that ICE has gone after immigrants for simply showing up to their court appearances in Long Island. Nationally, we discovered that there has been a three-fold increase in arrests of immigrants without criminal records. How can they possibly trust the system around them?

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Jano Tantongco is the online editor of Long Island Wins. He's previously worked in community journalism as a staff reporter for The Long Islander and The Queens Courier. He aims to pursue truth through a combination of rational inquiry and intuition. He also enjoys bossa nova, road trips and zen philosophy.

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