Tragic Death Should Not Define Public Policy

Matthew Denice’s tragic death at thehands of a drunk driver is a crime that should be punished. But it is not thesingle incident upon which public policy should be based.

Nicolas Guaman’s previous arrestrecord is cited as “proof” that if Governor Patrick accepted implementation ofSecure Communities, a program that requires local police to send fingerprintsof those under arrest to Immigration and Custom’s Enforcement’s centraldatabase, Matthew Denice would be alive today because Guaman would have beendeported long ago.

In the solitary context of Guaman’sapparent crime, it’s a compelling argument. But the Governors of Massachusetts,New York, and Illinois have refused to participate in the program for numerous reasons,primarily related to concerns about public safety and racial profiling. Even though the explicit goal of SecureCommunities is toimprove public safety by increasing deportations of undocumented criminals, inpractice it can actually decrease public safety by eroding trust between immigrants and local police.Mistrust between police and immigrant communities can lead to underreporting ofcrimes, leaving all of us vulnerable to violence and impairing officers’ability to investigate and solve crimes. 

When public officials weigh the critical decision of whetheror not to implement Secure Communities in their states and districts, theycannot look to a single event to help them make that determination. For every Nicolas Guaman, there is an AntonioDiaz Chacon from Albuquerque, New Mexico. Recently, Chacon—like Guaman, anundocumented immigrant—jumped into his truck when hewitnessed the kidnapping of a 6-year-old girl, and chased down the allegedabductor. Chacon then rescued the child and is working with the police as theycharge the suspect with kidnapping and child abuse. Would this little girl be alivetoday if Chacon had been deported under Secure Communities? Thankfully, we’llnever have to wonder.

For every tragic story like Denice’shorrific death, there is a complementary story about an immigrant who saved alife, helped his neighbor, or otherwise made a positive difference. Thesestories may be harder to find in the “if it bleeds, it leads” news mentality oftoday, but they are out there. Isolated events, no matter how poignant, shouldnot be used to shape our public policy. Denice’s family said it best on theFacebook page they created for him: “There is too much hate in this world already. Thepolitical issues should be fought separately and should not be mixed in withwhat Matthew, and our family, are about.”

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