Undocumented immigrants aren’t exactly the boogeymen that current political rhetoric would have you believe. LAPD Police Chief Charlie Beck appears to know this well, the Los Angeles Times reports. From decades of working with his city’s undocumented population, Beck says he has gained the kind of invaluable experience necessary to know what works and what doesn’t. Beck says he understands the vital role these 500,000 (his estimate) people play in the societal fabric of Los Angeles, a sanctuary city, and the harm that could result from a massive deportation effort. And this exactly why Beck has publicly refused to turn his police force into President Trump’s “immigration cops.”
Police Chief Beck’s understanding of the undocumented population has evolved over the course of his career.
According to Beck, making police officers enforce immigration policy will “come at the expense of public safety.” He believes it would also make undocumented immigrants easier to exploit, as they are less likely to go to the police.
“In the mid-1990s, when the state cracked down [on] illegal immigration, all we did was drive people underground,” Beck told the Los Angeles Times. In that kind of environment, Beck said, it becomes difficult for the police to do their job because undocumented witnesses are less likely to speak up. That’s not the environment Beck wants to create in Los Angeles, and for Beck, it’s not just a matter of losing federal money, it’s a matter of sticking to his beliefs.
TheLos Angeles Times‘ piece on Police Chief Beck is a glimpse into the mind of a man who has worked with undocumented immigrants for over 40 years, and it’s worth a read.
Early last fall, before the election, I arranged for myself and a small group of students from the small Catholic school I work for to attend the 45th Presidential Inauguration. At the time, we had no idea who the newly inaugurated president would be, but that did not matter to us.
Standing in front of the National Mall just past 4 a.m. on January 20, 2017, I realized I was about to witness the peaceful transition of power.
CREDIT: Oscar Fabian with colleagues two days before inauguration
As I explained to my students, family members, and followers on social media, the inauguration is an important moment because it is a symbol of the strength of American Democracy. This was a tumultuous election, but unlike in many countries, we were able to witness the successful transfer of power without violence, bloodshed, or military coups. Regardless of my political affiliations, culture, or personal beliefs, I stood alongside the thousands of primarily White Americans around me and listened to President Trump as he presented a general array of goals and issues that he hopes to tackle during his term in office.
Though the inauguration is meant to raise spirits and confidence in the new administration, I listened and soaked everything in with caution (maybe it was because I was so damn cold).
CREDIT: Oscar Fabian
The crowds cheered at his every word. At that point I told myself, whether I liked the president or not, it’s a done deal and the office of the President of the United States should be respected. Americans are currently divided with issues ranging from immigration reforms to gender equality. We all have something at stake, the world just has to wait and see.
Less than 24 hours later, it seemed like millions of people came to march on Washington. Yet, unlike the day before, I didn’t see airport-type security, no barricades, no bomb-squad canines, no military presence or sea of red hats.
CREDIT: Oscar Fabian
There were more people present for the Women’s March on Washington D.C. than the inauguration, and it felt like there were also more people there than at former President Obama’s inauguration.
Countless Americans (mainly women) came out to speak out against the abuses of their rights. There were politicians, celebrities, and special interest group speakers. My personal favorite was Kamala Harris, California’s newest Democratic Senator, who spoke of President Trump’s speech not as promising but “dark” – a stark contrast to the mood the day before. The crowds could be heard roaring from every corner. It was difficult to walk, move, or even stand still without being swept into the crowds.
There were thousands of makeshift signs with slogans such as “Women’s Rights are Human Rights” and the popular “We the People: Defend Dignity.” My personal favorite was “Nasty Woman.”
The overall sense was one of solidarity; everyone marching was there to fight some sort of oppression. I left that afternoon in awe, feeling blessed that I witnessed true democracy at work those two days.
CREDIT: Oscar Fabian
I closed this trip in the same manner that I close every academic school year. I told my group:
“History you learned, but my goal as an educator was to instill in you the belief that all individuals are deserving of respect and should be treated with dignity. I hope that you will always remember to be tolerant and loving of all human beings.”
Oscar Fabian is an 11th grade United States history teacher