Roeland Park candidates on the issues: Use of city resources for federal immigration actions

Jay Senter - October 16, 2019 2:35 pm

Last month, we asked our readers what issues they wanted to hear the candidates running for local office address ahead of this fall’s local elections primary. Based on the input we received, we developed a five-item questionnaire for candidates running for city council in Roeland Park.

Today we publish the candidates’ responses to item three:

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 The ACLU of Kansas recently made a presentation before the city council suggesting that the city should adopt a policy that city resources would not be used to aid federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents in immigration enforcement actions. Do you support the adoption of such a policy? Why or why not?

City Council Ward 2

Benjamin Dickens

I stand with the Roeland Park police department on this matter. As RPPD Chief John Morris has said, “Our written policy will allow us to work with ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement), however, our resources and enforcement action will require approval from me, or a supervisor on duty, first to ensure we are within the scope of our capabilities and resources at the time of a request or action to be taken.”

I believe that we must uphold our immigration laws and ICE can do their work under the law in our city. If needed and requested, RPPD will help ICE while operating in the best interest of every person living in Roeland Park. However, I believe that it is vitally important that Roeland Park’s resources and finances should remain focused on our citizens.

ICE is a federal program and, therefore, has a budget and workforce that exceeds the size of Roeland Park’s budget and workforce. I do not want to give away anymore of our tax dollars to the federal government for a fully funded program, nor do I want RPPD to be focused on anything other than our neighbors unless it is absolutely necessary.

Additionally, we must be united as a community. We have to push back against those voices from outside our city that want to spread fear in our neighborhoods. We can never allow such false and misleading statements, as we’ve seen and heard recently, to provoke hatred toward any persons or group.

As your city councilperson for Roeland Park, I will work to ensure that our community is always a safe and compassionate place for everyone, free from fear, while operating within the law.

Leonard Tocco

After the ACLU presentation, there was such a large amount of time before the public understood what the city was trying to accomplish. With this gap in time it caused rumors to start and division within our city. I encourage that we always consider new policies and review how we can become an efficient city with the funds and resources we have. As we consider new policies, it’s important that every voice is heard and every opinion matters. As in this case, after the dust settled, I believe what was presented by our Chief of Police makes sense for our city and allows our police department to effectively protect the residents of Roeland Park. Also, this still allows the city to share critical information and allowing other Federal Agencies to do their job.

City Council Ward 3

Galen Hansen

My response takes into account both the ACLU presentation at the September 3 Council meeting and the police policy change discussed at the October 7 Council meeting. I recommend reading the minutes for both meetings.

I believe our federal representatives must put aside their differences and resolve DACA, border security, and general immigration law. Accordingly, I believe the Council and citizens should press our federal representatives to address these issues.
I also believe existing laws should be enforced in both fact and appearance, and that the City should be primarily ‘safe and welcoming’ to life-long residents and legal entrants. Certainly, police should not harass or harm people who did not follow the laws when entering the country. However, everyone in our community should be aware that local police will not selectively enforce laws or selectively participate in legitimate mutual aid requests.

The first reason I support compliance and enforcement is because our local police have indicated that there has likely been only one assistance request. Accordingly, support could not have been a drain on police time or financial resources. Further, no concerns were raised during the budget process or in the Chief’s periodic Council updates.

A second reason I support compliance and enforcement is that it is not legal for companies to employ someone in the country illegally, although some certainly do. Accordingly, the City’s action seemingly increases risks to employers. The human resources groups I have worked with have been diligent to comply with immigration laws and reporting requirements in order to avoid potential penalties. The City should help to mitigate this risk.

A third reason I support compliance and enforcement is that it protects our life-long citizens and those who entered legally. Two companies I have worked for have sponsored foreign workers from several countries around the world under H-1B visa programs. Others have entered the US legally and have become citizens. Also, the metro welcomes refugees and non-refugees through the legal immigration process. Immigration law compliance protects and honors legal entrants, reducing the possibility they will be viewed with suspicion.

In conclusion, I recommend that immigration law be enforced in both fact and appearance. Also, the Police Chief should report immigration enforcement actions or requests to the Council. The issue can be revisited when and if a problem can be demonstrated. Meanwhile, the Council and citizens can press our federal representatives to address immigration laws and issues.

Trisha Brauer

This topic has come up in my recent conversations with neighbors along the campaign trail. I attended the Council meeting where the initial presentation was given, I made a point to personally speak with Chief Morris afterward to hear his perspective. After reading his official statement to the city, I fully support his stance. I believe our local officers should cooperate with federal agencies when appropriate. While I do believe that all immigrants should be here legally, as a second generation American, I personally know how long, drawn out, and expensive the immigration process can be. I also know that as a community, we must remain compassionate. If a neighbor needs help, regardless of their immigration status, it is the first priority of our police department to assist them in order to continue to keep Roeland Park safe. Should a crime be committed and ICE’s involvement prudent, I support Chief Morris’s decades of experience and training to decide to what extent to his officers and our city resources should be utilized in that cooperation.

City Council Ward 4

A.J. Cameron

I do not believe this issue should have been advanced by the city council. This is an example of an outside influence being brought into the chambers of our city government.

According to the Chief of Police, ICE has not requested our city to use our law enforcement resources. The Chief of Police already had the authority to make decisions, regarding Roeland Park’s collaboration and use of resources. He has taken an additional step, working jointly with an attorney, to address this issue, as a matter of Police Department policy. This policy has been added to the Police Department handbook.

The residents and businesses of Roeland Park are fortunate to have a Police Department that is committed to protecting them, on all issues of safety.

Michael Rebne

I was in attendance at the City Council meeting and heard the presentation by the ACLU. Like many others in our community, I wanted to understand more about the situation. Of course we want a safe and welcoming community but we also want to ensure that we are upholding the law. Ultimately, I believe it was the right decision not to adopt a formal ordinance by the Council and instead take direction from our Chief of Police.

I believe his words speak for themselves on this issue:

“Our written policy will allow us to work with ICE however our resources and enforcement action will require approval from me or a supervisor on duty first to ensure we are within the scope of our capabilities and resources at the time of a request or action to be taken. We are not Federal officers however we do assist with all law enforcement agencies and will continue to do so. The representation of what was reported was incorrect. There was no ordinance adopted, I placed guidelines on how we will continue to work with our partners in law enforcement to ensure a safer community. I have a policy only that guides our department on how we will use our resources. Immigration enforcement is not our primary function as a local law enforcement agency but we will continue to support all of our law enforcement partners.”

I proudly support Chief Morris and the Roeland Park Police Department and I trust them to keep my family, and our community safe. We have one of the strongest, most reliable forces in our region. Chief Morris and our officers consistently receive high praise from our community and have successfully brought down crime to a 10-year low. We are proud and grateful for their efforts.

Tomorrow we’ll publish the candidates’ responses to item four:

 The future of the city’s aquatics facilities has been at issue since the dissolution of the joint-operating partnership between Roeland Park and the Johnson County Park and Recreation District earlier this year. What’s your vision for the city’s public pool facilities moving forward?

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