Geneseo Village Police issued a new policy proposal concerning identification of undocumented immigrants. The policy comes after backlash from local community over a traffic stop with an undocumented Guatemalan immigrant family.
The policy outlines procedures for officers to follow in the case that they pull over a vehicle with undocumented immigrant drivers. Specific rules of procedure involve contacting the Sheriff’s 911 Dispatch Center for assistance in communicating with non-English speakers and including further instructions on how to handle situations without contacting federal authorities or organizations, such as Border Patrol.
“We modeled it after [state agency policies], which basically states that if you stop somebody who doesn’t have a license, you make every best effort to try to find out who they are, Village Police Chief Eric Osganian said. “If we can’t find out who they are, we would contact another local, state or federal agency in help determining the identification part.”
“[Geneseo Police Department’s] insurance carrier has approved [the policy],” Osganian continued. “If we get into a lawsuit, they would represent us and our insurance has no problem with the policy.”
An illegal alien is someone who enters the country legally but remains longer than they are supposed to, which is considered a civil violation, according to the proposal.
While the proposed policy provides instructions for officers on how to handle these situations, members of the community and local organizations still have problems with certain stipulations outlined in the proposal.
“It still leaves room for police, if they believe that a criminal offense is taking place, to act as immigration officers,” English major senior Evan Goldstein said. “I think it’s still unacceptable given the current situation and what happens to immigrants when they’re investigated and put in detention centers.”
Despite his other reservations, Goldstein said that he does think that the proposal to use interpretation services is a positive signal.
“There’s a good faith effort from the police to establish a procedure for contacting interpreters and using an interpretation service for people who don’t speak the same language,” Goldstein said. “It seems like there’s still a lot of ambiguity regarding when the police can act as immigration officers.”
The Village Board of Trustees has yet to officially approve the policy, but the policy is expected to pass, according to Village Board Trustee Matthew Cook.
Cook additionally said that he predicts the policy will be successful in placing the Village Police in the right direction.
“Officers aren’t acting as immigration officers; you know it’s really just to identify a person,” he said. “They’re not trying to ask people about the legality of their status in the United States. The police are pretty aware of what they’re doing—a lot of things they’ll be doing are going to be under a microscope for really up to a couple of years.”
Goldstein said that he believes the policy proposal is not sufficient and leaves room for issue to arise.
“I’m glad that they’re establishing a policy for calling an interpretation service and not calling border patrol if they don’t understand someone’s language, but it seems like there’s still some issues with the immigration law,” Goldstein said. “Ultimately, whether or not the police department passes a policy, it’s up to individual people. It’s up to groups to get together with these workers and defend their rights against whomever might come and take them away.”