THERE ARE THOSE who argue that police should cooperate more aggressively with immigration officials, that cops should be the front line in spotting people here illegally and expediting their removal from this country. To those advocates, we commend the case of Pedro Guzman, a 29-year-old developmentally disabled man born in Los Angeles and deported by mistake last month.
Arrested for trespassing at an airplane junkyard, Guzman was questioned while in the custody of the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department and, perhaps because of his disability, mistaken for an illegal immigrant. He was turned over to immigration authorities, who deported him to Tijuana. He then promptly disappeared. Despite their frantic attempts to find him, Guzman's family has not heard from him since May 11. What that means is that Guzman's trespass has earned him a sentence of banishment and disappearance, a fate common in third-rate dictatorships but abhorred in civilized nations. And the federal government's response has been to evade responsibility and to refuse the family's pleas for help.
Thankfully, not all law-and-order enthusiasts want police to take the lead on immigration enforcement. LAPD Chief William J. Bratton, no slouch on crime-fighting, warns that turning police into immigration monitors would take them away from more serious duties and discourage immigrants from reporting crime. Under his leadership, the LAPD has maintained its long-standing practice of ignoring immigration status and treating witnesses, victims and suspects as, well, witnesses, victims and suspects -- irrespective of what brought them to this country and city.
Would that Pedro Guzman had been accorded the same decency.