Dreamers are key to our future

People hold up signs on the steps of the Iowa Old Capitol Building as they gather on the Pentacrest for the Hawkeyes for Dream Iowa: #DefendDACA Rally in Iowa City on Thursday, Sep. 7, 2017. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
People hold up signs on the steps of the Iowa Old Capitol Building as they gather on the Pentacrest for the Hawkeyes for Dream Iowa: #DefendDACA Rally in Iowa City on Thursday, Sep. 7, 2017. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

With 38 years of policing experience, I have learned the value of trust.

When law enforcement establishes trust with residents, an entire community is safer. With trust, residents are more likely to cooperate with police to report suspicious or criminal activity. Trust is key to the flourishing of Cedar Rapids, where our 130,000-plus residents enjoy relative safety and stability.

The importance of trust is one reason I and other police chiefs nationwide are asking Congress to pass broad immigration reform, and right now to focus on a legislative solution to replace the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. We are urging our nation’s leaders to work across the political aisle to allow Dreamers — the hundreds of thousands of young people who were brought to the U.S. as children — to stay in Cedar Rapids and elsewhere without fear or threat of deportation.

A legal solution for Dreamers will help my department keep Cedar Rapids safe. My officers and I are concerned that, absent action by Congress, Dreamers will be driven into the shadows and won’t report crimes. The end of DACA without legislative action from our elected representatives will hamper officers’ relationships with immigrants. When Dreamers and other immigrants feel safe working with police, all of us end up safer.

Beyond public safety, I have seen the way Dreamers help make Cedar Rapids a stellar place to live. Our city has ranked No. 1 in America to raise children for the past three years. We are ranked as one of the top 10 cities for new graduates and the third happiest city in the country. The hard work and economic contributions of Dreamers and other immigrants are an important part of that picture. The vast majority are law-abiding employees, students and neighbors. Their ability to live a meaningful, productive life here is key to our city’s future.

At heart, this is not a partisan issue. As police chief, my primary job is to keep Cedar Rapids safe. Our law enforcement should spend their limited time and resources pursuing true criminals, not otherwise law-abiding residents. Ending DACA without a legislative solution would damage the trust we’ve tried to build with everyone in the community, no matter where you were born, and thus would hamper our officers’ efforts to address crime.

For the sake of both Dreamers and our city, I am hopeful that Rep. Rod Blum, Sens. Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst, and their colleagues in Congress will seize this historic moment to forge a legal pathway for Dreamers. By further incorporating them into the fabric of Cedar Rapids, we all will be stronger.

• Wayne Jerman has served as police chief in Cedar Rapids since 2012 and was a police officer in Maryland for 33 years. He is a member of the International Association of Chiefs of Police and the Iowa Police Chiefs Association.



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