Here we have it, reason enough that law enforcement and immigration officials should NOT work together in a way that makes undocumented people in our cities fear the police. This is a warning to all those in Arizona who are about to make life extremely dangerous for those in their state.

(Note: the position that law enforcement and immigration officials should NOT work together is an argument outlined in an Op-Ed in November 2009 by outgoing Los Angeles Police Chief William Bratton, who we thank for endorsing a vision of community policing that helps reduce crime.)

So, here’s the situation:

Take a community of undocumented immigrants. They are working multiple jobs to try and support themselves in the US and send money home to support the families they’ve left behind in countries like Guatemala, Mexico, and El Salvador.

These are good people, family-oriented and hard working.

Individually, throughout a city, they begin to receive phone calls telling them that if they don’t pay upwards of $5,000 that one of their relatives in their home country will be maimed or killed.

They are instructed to gather the money and go to a money transfer outlet, like Western Union. The money is transferred to somewhere else in the US, where it is picked up.

If these immigrants don’t pay…they have every reason to believe their loved one will be on the receiving end of significant violence. — This is extortion, plain and simple.

This is also happening. Reports from some of our least politically powerful citizens are too afraid to speak up publicly, but the word is spreading. At least one little boy in another country has already had his finger cut off.

This is an international network. The calls appear to be coming from Guatemala, but the money is collected in the US, and the violence is not isolated to either of these two countries.

To pass laws that allow the victims of these crimes to fear deportation if they report this level of extortion is a complete travesty!

This is clearly an issue for the FBI, and my strongest hope is that my colleagues who are telling me about this activity will have the confidence in our system to report these heinous crimes. How to approach this carefully has been our conversation so far.

Unfortunately, there remains a lot of fear among immigrant communities, and inviting them to come forward really only appears viable if they believe they will be truly and honestly helped.

An atmosphere that lets them know their very presence in the US is despised is hardly a way to support honesty and justice.

And, just think about this, if WE don’t help support them when they are in need…what in the world would make us think that they would support US if we ever needed their voice?