Target: Interim Chief of Police Jim Pugel of the Seattle Police Department
Goal: Thank the Seattle Police Department for easing their immigration holds on low-level offenders
Under the current federal law, United States police offers are allowed to scan the fingerprints of anyone they arrest to determine if the person in question is legally authorized to be in the United States. This policy is dictated by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Instead of the standard hold time, individuals whose fingerprints are highlighted by the system are held for additional time before being transferred to a detention center. From there, their fate is up to the federal, rather than local, authorities.
Anyone suspected of being in violation of current immigration law can be subjected to this fingerprint check. The federal policy was being followed in Seattle up until recently, even for people who weren’t charged with any crimes. In addition to violating human rights, the implementation of this policy was expensive and also created a culture of fear that kept low-level offenders or even individuals innocent of any crime, such as domestic violence victims, from trusting police officers.
Thankfully Seattle has changed its policy and will stop running fingerprints for low-level offenders. By opting out of voluntary compliance with the federal program, Seattle is a role model for other cities across our nation who undoubtedly face similar dilemmas.
Immigration is a complicated matter that needs to be addressed, but assigning the one-size-fits-all enforcement of immigration laws to local jails strains the already over-taxed criminal justice system and creates a culture of fear for potentially undocumented immigrants. Thank Seattle for putting priority on dangerous offenders only and keeping the criminal justice system running smoothly.
Dear Interim Chief of Police Jim Pugel,
Thank you for reassessing your old policy on how to process low-level offenders whose immigration status is in question. While police officers used to scan the fingerprints of people who were arrested to see if they are flagged in the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement database, a new policy has been decided upon in Seattle. Instead of checking the status of everyone, only the status of dangerous offenders will be prioritized.
Thank you for realizing that processing low-level offenders’ immigration status is not the duty of local police officers, but a federal matter. Having local police officers manage this matter wastes financial resources, in addition to making it very hard for members of the undocumented immigrant community to trust Seattle police officers even when they really need help, such as in domestic violence cases.
By changing your policy, Seattle has set an example for cities throughout America that struggle with this same issue. Immigration is an issue that needs to be dealt with, but local police officers have an important role in the existing criminal justice system and have neither the resources nor the energy to devote to processing low-level offenders who pose no danger to our community. Thank you again for realizing Seattle’s priority lies elsewhere.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: my_southborough via Flickr