In a panel discussion Thursday, Salt Lake City police Chief Chris Burbank reiterated his opposition to the participation of local law enforcement in immigration control.
"You cannot do immigration enforcement without interjecting race into the situation," Burbank told the National Association of Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement, which held a conference this week at the Little America Hotel.
When local police take on immigration, it kills their ability to win the trust of large swaths of the public not just illegal immigrants but citizens and legal residents who may be related to people who are undocumented, Burbank said.
"When we alienate a segment of our society ... we create a population that will be unwilling to cooperate with police," Burbank said. "That's when crime thrives."
Burbank presented alongside Margo Frasier, police monitor for Austin, Texas. Frasier said that some police agencies have partnered with federal agencies to identify and deport undocumented immigrants in hopes of catching cartel leaders and disrupting drug networks. Instead, Frasier said, most immigrants deported through those partnerships have been low-level misdemeanor offenders.
"They aren't violent felons," she said. "And it has a horrible impact on trust."
Burbank argued that local police should no more enforce immigration law than it would enforce tax laws.
"It's federal, civil law," he said. "Any time you put local people in the position of doing border control, it makes us illegitimate."
Instead he called for total immigration reform,
"We have allowed biased laws to be put into place and harm our communities," Burbank said. "It's time for local law enforcement to say, 'We are not going to participate anymore.' "