Police Chief Says Watertown Will Not Seek Out Immigration Status

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Charlie Breitrose

Watertown Police Chief Michael Lawn.

Charlie Breitrose

Watertown Police Chief Michael Lawn.

Watertown Police Chief Michael Lawn reinforced a message he made at the Unity Breakfast last week, saying that the Watertown Police will not be delving into people’s immigration status when they call the police. 

The issue of undocumented immigrants has risen to the forefront after the Trump Administration announced it would seek to deport all illegal immigrants. Part of the policy announced Wednesday, the administration said they would deny federal funding for communities known as “Sanctuary Cities” which have vowed to protect undocumented immigrants.

Watertown is not a sanctuary city, but Lawn said during his entire 28-year-career on the WPD the department has never sought out immigrants to deport them.

“We are not changing the way we are dealing with (immigration enforcement). We aren’t asking people about that,” Lawn said. “If ICE (Immigration and Custom Enforcement) has a warrant for someone that is a different story.”

Watertown has residents from a wide range of nationalities and backgrounds, Lawn noted.

“We encounter a variety of people, everyday and we treat them like we treat everyone else,” Lawn said.

Lawn said he worries that people will end up getting hurt if they are scared to call police for fear of being deported.

“It would jeopardize people’s safety if people are afraid to talk to the police,” Lawn said. “We want all residents to be comfortable to call, not be afraid that we’ll be checking their status. We will be coming to help them.”

11 thoughts on “Police Chief Says Watertown Will Not Seek Out Immigration Status

  1. This policy is perfectly consistent with the current effort to deport those Illegal Aliens that break additional laws. The local Police are not expected to be ICE agents, actively seeking out those who are here illegally. But refusal to turn over those who an ICE Warrant out for them is as Chief Lawn stated, “is a different story.” However, not asking about immigration status is one thing…. but discovering in the course of an investigation that someone is illegal and not calling ICE are also two different things. I would hope that should the latter is not the policy.

  2. Chief Lawn,
    You summed it up yourself when you stated “we want all residents to be comfortable to call” Illegal immigrants are not residents, so you are giving consideration to persons who do not have the same rights as American citizens who you are putting in jeopardy by not following Fedreal law. You are not and have not considered the feelings of Watertown residents. You job is to uphold the law and by not doing so you are failing to do the job you are tasked with. The feeling of this Watertown resident is enforce the law or resign your post!

    • I’m sorry, but any illegal immigrant who does live in Watertown is a resident. It is literally the definition of residency, which is ” a person who lives somewhere permanently or on a long-term basis.” It is also not his job, or the job of any local cop, to ask immigration status. They are not immigration officers. They are here to protect the residents of Watertown.

      • We should be protected from any diseases that these unvaccinated people may bring to our town. There is a reason why people are examined by a doctor before being allowed to enter our country.

    • Whether living here legally or illegally, visiting for a vacation, or for whatever other reason someone from another country is here, they do have the right to police protection. If you were visiting another country, I assume that you would expect the police to protect you and not stand idly by while some crime was being committed upon you. To say that only American citizens have the right to police protection in this Country is completely ridiculous.

  3. Chief Lawn’s policy sounds fair and humane and consistent with the mission of our Watertown Police Department and the welcoming character of our town. It has been so for centuries here, since the founding of the town. Thank you.

    • published by a Cop (ISBN 1610352173, p.33):
      “Once in a while, you’ll encounter an undocumented immigrant who has no ID and claims not to know his exact date of birth, which may be true, as some immigrants hail from remote places where certified birth certificates are few and far between. If you arrest such a person, you run their prints and see if anything comes up. If nothing does, you have to put something down on the paperwork for a date of birth. so you just assign them one. The time I did this, I made it in July. The suspect seemed okay with that. July is a good month for birthdays, with the favorable weather and all. When I was done, I felt a faint God complex. I have bestowed a date of origin upon you. I have given you life. go forth and be fruitful.”

  4. WPD shouldn’t be in the business of seeking out illegal aliens, nor should they directly inquire one about his/hers immigration status. However, if during the course of routine, normal police procedures they discover that person is in the country illegally, then it should be their DUTY to detain that person and inform ICE of the situation (especially if they have prior arrests and/or convictions, warrents).

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