Fullerton Police Chief David Hinig recently assured parents and administrators at Pacific Drive Elementary School that public safety, not immigration, is the FPD’s primary concern.
Since the election of President Donald Trump, families from the largely Hispanic community served by Pacific Drive have voiced an array of concerns regarding immigration enforcement.
Widespread speculation has ranged from whether there would be a staging of checkpoints requiring citizens to prove their citizenship to whether immigration officials could simply walk into an adult ESL class and detain students.
Some children even were afraid they might come home from school one day and discover their parents had been deported.
Wanting to maintain the trusting relationship that exists between the Fullerton Police Department and the community, the chief said he felt there was a need to provide facts and dispel rumors.
With help from an interpreter, Hinig on Tuesday, Feb. 7, told about 25 parents gathered in Pacific Drive’s multipurpose room that enforcing federal immigration laws is not a statutory role of the police.
“Public safety requires partnerships, and undue immigration enforcement will erode both the trust and collaboration we need from people living in our respective communities,” Hinig said. “Regardless of your immigration status, if you need assistance, either from injury, assault or accident, our role will still be to help you in any way possible.”
Hinig also pointed out that Cal Chiefs, an association of California police chiefs, is a staunch supporter of AB2027, a state law that helps secure T visas for victims of human trafficking, who then cooperate with law enforcement by helping in the arrests of their traffickers.
“Because those relationships are so important, Cal Chiefs has a track record of supporting California’s largest immigrant community,” Hinig said.
Immigration officials in Orange County are essentially concerned only with the undocumented immigrants incarcerated in Orange County Jail and those guilty of serious crimes, the chief said.
There may be situations involving public safety, however, where police do partner with federal agencies, Hinig said.
Mariela, a mother of four, three of them in the Fullerton School District and one at Fullerton High School, said the chief left her with a better understanding of the police department’s role in her community.
“I received information and feel safe, knowing what to expect,” Mariela said.
Carlos Perez instructs adult ESL classes at Pacific Drive and said some students have expressed concerns about immigration officials actually showing up at class.
“It’s going to help a lot to ease their fears and they will feel more reassured,” Perez said about the chief’s visit.
The chief and school officials also encouraged the attendees to share the information with friends and neighbors.
“School is a place where your children should be concentrating on learning, and not be fearful,” Hinig said.