BROWNSVILLE, Texas (CN) - Undocumented immigrants' cooperation with police is vital for public safety, 27 police chiefs from Los Angeles to Boston say in a friend of the court brief supporting President Barack Obama's directive to ease deportations.
The Major Cities Chiefs Association, a group of police chiefs and sheriffs representing the nation's largest cities, and 27 law enforcement officials filed an amici curiae brief Monday in Federal Court.
Among those on board are Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck, Harris County, Texas Sheriff Adrian Garcia and Boston Police Department Commissioner William B. Evans.
The filing came four days before U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen is to hold a preliminary injunction hearing on whether to suspend Obama's policy directive not to deport undocumented people present in the United States before 2010 who entered as children, or are the parents of U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents.
Obama's policy change is called the "Deferred Action Initiative" and if courts do not intervene it will apply for the remainder of his term.
Less than two weeks after Obama announced the initiative in November 2014, 20 Republican-controlled states and four Republican governors sued the president's immigration officials in Brownsville Federal Court.
Lead plaintiff Texas claimed Obama violated the Constitution by going it alone on immigration policy after an overhaul offered by the U.S. Senate died in the House of Representatives.
The states claim the directive suspends immigration laws for 4 million of the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States.
But in their brief backing Obama, the police chiefs say the policy shift will improve public safety.
The initiative "encourages community cooperation with police" and "provides individuals with the opportunity to obtain verified and secure identification," according to the amicus brief.
"For example, a domestic violence victim who doesn't have legal status may not call police for fear that she or her abuser will be deported," the chiefs say in the 13-page filing.
Because undocumented immigrants are afraid to speak with law enforcement they are often targeted by criminals, the lawmen add.
"An avoidance of law enforcement makes immigrants especially vulnerable to all types of crime and civil violations; for example, domestic violence, sexual assault, gang activity, human trafficking, nonpayment by employers, and financial scams," the document states.
Unscrupulous employers take advantage of undocumented workers by refusing to pay them wages, the police chiefs say.
The chiefs say that undocumented immigrants who qualify under Obama's initiative may be eligible to receive a federal employment authorization card that includes their photograph, which would open the door for them to get a Social Security card and number and a state driver's license.
This would make the roads safer for everyone, the police chiefs say.
"Studies have provided strong evidence that unlicensed drivers are much more hazardous on the road than are validly licensed drivers. Thus, the increase in motorists who are trained, tested, licensed, and insured will improve road safety overall," the brief states.
The lawsuit is being closely watched by groups on both sides of the issue.
Led by Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, 27 Republican congressmen filed their own amicus brief in support of the lawsuit last month, in which they claim: "The Constitution vested in Congress the exclusive authority to make law and set immigration policies."
On Jan. 9, Judge Hanen accepted an amicus brief in support of Obama's initiative from immigrants' rights groups, including the Southern Poverty Law Center and American Immigration Lawyers Association.
Hanen was appointed by President George W. Bush in 2002.
The preliminary injunction hearing is scheduled for 10 a.m. Thursday in his Brownsville courtroom.
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