A Cop’s-Eye View: Thoughts on Assimilation

(The third in an on-going series of articles from a police officer actively serving in a sanctuary county outside Washington, D.C.)

As I write these words, it is late 2019, and nobody seems to be talking about the “crisis at the border” or “children in cages” anymore. With half our Congress focused on trying to undo an election, it’s become abundantly clear how little this alleged humanitarian crisis actually​ matters to those most vocal about it. That said, the United States did not manufacture this problem, although some might argue that decades of inaction are directly to blame for the situation we find ourselves in today.

What does all this mean for a cop in a sanctuary jurisdiction like me? We’re told by higher ups that illegal immigrants are less likely to come forth with information if their status is in question. The only time in over twenty years I’ve seen an illegal immigrant come forth with information about a crime, is when I’ve charged him with possession of a fraudulent government ID and the defendant squealed because he wanted to roll over on the guy he bought it from.

Imagine it’s 1999.  You’re on a traffic stop as a rookie police officer. The person you’ve detained has just handed over a fake Social Security card and alien resident card along with the name and address of where he, and several people he knows, obtained the fake documents. Excitedly, you call the Immigration and Naturalization Service (ICE’s predecessor agency), ready to tell them the location of this nefarious underground document mill. The individual on the other end tells you that these locations are a dime a dozen, and that unless the individual under arrest is charged with a violent felony, they’re not interested. Message received both for the illegal alien and for the earnest young officer.

This was a clear indicator of just how insignificant illegal immigration ​really​ was to the powers-that-be. This was prior to the current narrative that opposition to illegal immigration is racist. It was simply not a priority at the time, and quite frankly, it isn’t one now. Sure, we have laws that say you can’t just walk into this country and plant your flag – senseless laws with what appears to be very arbitrary enforcement, if there is enforcement at all.

Why should this bother anyone? Immigrants are said to make this country a better place, and I agree – I think most people would. The issue is the conflation of immigration and ​illegal​ immigration, which is all too common. Why is it that those who like to remind us we’re a nation of laws cannot seem to remember this detail, themselves?

I read a book decades ago titled “The Ugly American”, which was a scathing indictment of the U.S. diplomatic corps and its failure to exert influence in Southeast Asia, thus opening the doors to, at the time, Soviet influence. This matters today, because the failures of the U.S. diplomats were rooted in an unwillingness to assimilate, be it to local customs, the language or tradition. Americans overseas were purportedly loud and pretentious, demanding locals speak English and accept U.S. currency. From personal experience, this was very much the case, and it was embarrassing for us as a nation.

There is something to be learned from the message of “The Ugly American,” as I see it: assimilate. Assimilation isn’t an abandonment of who one is or comes from, but the desire to adhere to established norms, be those written laws or otherwise. Assimilation is not a non-English speaking illegal immigrant belligerently asking a police officer if he speaks Spanish, and then asking “why not?” when the officer responds in the negative. Assimilation is not berating that officer (in quite passable English, as is usually the case) for not speaking a language that isn’t central to the country he lives and works in.

I speak three languages fluently, and none of them are Spanish, as I have never lived in a country where that is the national language. Is it racist to refuse to learn a language that has no bearing on my personal life, or that I expect persons who intend to live in this country to be able to communicate in the national language? Is it racist to stand against the import of criminality and gang violence when we have so much of our own that we can’t fix?

Montgomery County, Maryland, just added another body to their list of Central American gang violence victims within the last few weeks. The argument I hear, which is sickening, is “well it’s just one body. American citizens kill each other every day and in much greater numbers.” I wonder how Kate Steinle’s parents feel about that.

One single American citizen killed on U.S. soil by an illegal immigrant is a failure. We pay taxes, and no small amount. We have the right to be secure in our homes not only against a tyrannical government, but invaders as well. Your police are your first line of defense, and we’ve been figuratively neutered when it comes to dealing with illegal immigrants, even when the arrest or charge has nothing to do with their status. We deserve better as a nation, but it appears the politics behind keeping this problem unsolved are too involved.

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