A coalition of San Jose community groups today gathered to send a loud message of disapproval to Police Chief Chris Moore on his decision to keep a pair of recently enlisted federal immigrations investigators. “Our message is clear: we don’t want ICE here,” Stefanie Flores, a spokeswoman for Silicon Valley DeBug, said at a news conference this morning. “We want to work with the police to find real solutions. “DeBug is part of a handful of San Jose immigrant and civil rights groups that oppose Moore’s recent decision to enlist the help of two investigators from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement as part of the Department of Homeland Security’s “Operation Community Shield” program.
The groups said the program increases the community’s distrust of law enforcement, cultivates fear and undermines immigrants’ civil liberties. “Now, more than ever, there needs to be a culture of trust between immigrant populations and the Police Department,” said Jazmin Segura, a spokeswoman for the group Services, Immigrant Rights, and Education Network, or SIREN. “This program will invariably damage that trust.” At a community meeting hosted by Sacred Heart Community Service on Wednesday night, Moore said the agents are helping the department target escalating gang violence, which he said has contributed to more than half of the city’s homicides this year. He said they are working strictly within those guidelines and that he would remove them if they overstepped their boundaries. Moore’s promise, however, does not appear to have quelled the suspicions of the immigrant community, who questioned why the decision was made without input from the community and who fear that the department’s collaboration with the two ICE agents will increase the chances of racial profiling and deportations.
They claim that there have been cases across the country where agents have been authorized to question undocumented immigrants despite their criminal history or affiliation with gangs. One resident shared a personal story about her brother being stopped by police and deported at a time when he was very sick. “For the police to tell me they don’t work with the immigration agency is an insult to my intelligence,” Miranda Flores said. “He has to know and understand that for us things are not okay.” It is this fear of being stopped by an officer that Flores and others in the community say has made them think twice about going to the police when they witness criminal activity in their neighborhoods or evenwhen they themselves fall victim to a crime. One point the two sides agree upon is that the recent spike in homicides in the community must be addressed and resolved. Community leaders urged Moore to remove the ICE agents and work instead with the immigrant community.
One request they made of Moore, who is in Washington, D.C. to testify before Congress, is to meet one-on-one with the two agents to better understand their work. That request could be fulfilled, according to San Jose’s independent police auditor LaDoris Cordell, who told the groups today that she had spoken with the chief on Thursday and he had expressed the same idea. “I’m strongly in support of going to this next step,” Cordell said. “I am encouraged by the fact that the chief has said this will be a priority when he gets back.”Cordell said the decision would have to be approved by the agents’ supervisor.
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