Video: Police chiefs chide Arizona immigration law

  1. Transcript of: Police chiefs chide Arizona immigration law

    BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor: There is new fallout tonight over Arizona 's controversial new immigration law . Police chiefs from around the country told the US attorney general today that requiring police officers to enforce immigration laws diverts them from their core job, which is fighting crime. Throughout this today and all across the NBC News division we've been reporting today on the immigration debate in a series of reports we're calling A NATION DIVIDED . In our new NBC News / MSNBC / Telemundo national poll on this issue, we found 61 percent of people support the Arizona law, 36 percent oppose it. When we compared whites to Hispanics in this country, look at the numbers, 70 percent vs. 31 percent.

updated 5/26/2010 2:27:29 PM ET 2010-05-26T18:27:29

Arizona's new immigration law and similar proposals in other states would lead to an increase in crime, some police chiefs from around the country told Attorney General Eric Holder in an hourlong meeting Wednesday.

The chiefs told the attorney general that having to determine whether a person is in the United States illegally will break down the trust that police have built in communities and will divert law enforcement resources away from fighting crime.

If that happens, "we will be unable to do our jobs," said Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck. "Laws like this will actually increase crime, not decrease crime."

Tucson Police Chief Roberto Villasenor said the requirements of the new law are so burdensome that "we doubt the federal government can even handle the numbers of people we will bring to them" on immigration status.

The new law "puts Arizona law enforcement right in the middle" at a time when police budgets are already in crisis, said John Harris, president of the Arizona Association of Chiefs of Police.

The Obama administration is weighing a possible court challenge to the Arizona law and "the attorney general said he would be making decisions fairly quickly," though he did not elaborate, said Harris, who is police chief in Sahuarita, Ariz.

The chiefs, who spoke to reporters after the hourlong meeting with Holder, said the subject of filing a lawsuit never came up.

Holder has expressed reservations about the new law, saying it could lead to racial profiling. Three weeks ago, the Justice Department's civil rights division head told some Arizona leaders that DOJ staff is analyzing the potential effects of the new state law.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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