“We don’t want someone who is the victim of a crime to have any fears about talking to the police because of their immigration status,” Police Chief Steve Mylett said. “I do not and will not allow that to happen.”
Bellevue Police Chief Steve Mylett said officers won’t be asking residents for their immigration status and won’t use police resources to apprehend undocumented immigrants unless they are suspected of a serious crime.
Mylett’s comments follow those of Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole and Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck, who this week sought to reassure residents in the wake of President-elect Donald Trump’s pledge to toughen federal immigration laws and deport millions of people in the country illegally.
“What’s important here is that the Bellevue Police Department is committed to serving and protecting all residents,” Mylett said. “We don’t want someone who is the victim of a crime to have any fears about talking to the police because of their immigration status. I do not and will not allow that to happen.”
Many immigrants across the country have reacted with a mixture of fear and alarm to the election of Trump, who made illegal immigration a central issue in his campaign and promised to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and reverse immigration protections enacted under President Barack Obama.
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Bellevue Mayor John Stokes this week also sought to reassure residents concerned about anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim rhetoric during the presidential campaign.
“Bellevue is committed to protecting and serving everyone in the community. Any form of intolerance, hate speech or discrimination is unacceptable,” Stokes said at the start of Monday’s City Council meeting.
Bellevue’s foreign-born population reached almost 40 percent in 2015, according to the city and U.S. Census figures. Of foreign-born residents, 10 percent are Latino and 67 percent are Asian.
O’Toole said Seattle’s most vulnerable residents must be able to trust the police, and that arresting people solely on their immigration status would undermine that trust. “Most major city chiefs are totally aligned on this issue,” O’Toole said Tuesday.
Bellevue is not a “sanctuary city” like Seattle, which has policies to protect undocumented immigrants.
But Bellevue Police Department policy states that officers “do not inquire about immigration status during contact with suspects, witnesses, or victims” of crimes.
Mylett came to Bellevue from Texas, where he served 23 years in the Corpus Christi Police Department. He said even in a big city near the Mexican border, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) never asked police to take someone into custody based on immigration status alone.
He doesn’t expect that to be any different in Bellevue.
Mylett said that if ICE asks for help in Bellevue to apprehend a violent criminal, “we will commit all the necessary resources available.” But if ICE is requesting permission to take an individual into custody on an immigration violation alone, he said, “We will not commit resources. We won’t do it.”