Yuma Police Will Not Prioritize Enforcing Federal Immigration Law

Feb 15, 2017

President Donald Trump wants local police to help enforce federal immigration laws. His recent executive action gives local police chiefs the choice to deputize their officers as immigration officials and do street level enforcement.

But in the border community of Yuma, Arizona, where there are thousands of border and customs officials, the local police department said using its resources to enforce immigration laws makes no sense.

KAWC’s Stephanie Sanchez reports.

President Donald Trump’s executive order to crack down on illegal immigration includes a provision that allows the federal government to deputize local police to enforce federal immigration law.

Yuma Police Chief John Lekan runs a department 20 miles from the U.S.-Mexico border.  He said adding federal duties to his officer’s workload is not a priority.

“Number one, I don’t have the resources,” Lekan said. “And number two, the resources that do those investigations are abundant within this community.”

Lekan said YPD officers don’t carry out specific immigration details.

But if, in the course of an investigation, an officer has reason to believe a person is in the country illegally, they will detain them and call immigration officials.

“If there ever comes a time when that time period becomes extended…that we’re detaining folks for longer than a reasonable period of time, then I would probably be the first to tell you that I have to reconsider what our priorities are here,” he said.

Lekan is concerned YPD’s relationship with the community will suffer if officers are deputized to enforce federal immigration law.

“Those relationships I think are directly related to our nearly 13 percent drop in violent crime in this community, when you compare 2014-2015," Lekan said, "if it wasn’t for our community calling us being our eyes and ears."

Extended interview with YPD Chief John Lekan: