Working in partnership
By Bill Montgomery
National Hispanic Heritage Month offers us an opportunity to reflect on the contributions and hard work of a diverse Hispanic community in helping to build our great nation and our local community. For me personally, that reflection includes my own memories of growing up in a largely Hispanic neighborhood just south of Los Angeles. Many of the children I went to school with and many of the families I worshiped with at Mass each Sunday were Hispanic. We played, learned, prayed and shared the same dreams of a better future together.
Locally, our community reflects a rich and various blend of cultures with a strong Hispanic influence. We are made a stronger community when individuals bring the best of their respective heritages forward to add to that peculiar recipe of what it is to be an American. After all, to be an American is to simply buy into the truth that we can be the men and women God created us to be when government is limited and we can pursue our own dreams using the talents and abilities each of us are blessed with. That is true whether your family came to this country on the Mayflower, from Torreón in Durango, Mexico, Tegucigalpa, Honduras or San Salvador, El Salvador.
Today, as the chief prosecutor for the nation’s fourth largest county, I work every day to make our community safe for the nearly four million residents within my jurisdiction, so they can realize their own dreams of a better future. That means working in partnership with law enforcement and the entire community, business and civic leaders alike, so that Maricopa County is the best place in the country to live, work and raise a family. It is a job I do for the benefit of all – without regard to the ethnicity or place of origin of the people I serve.
Key in this effort is the involvement of anyone who witnesses or is a victim of a crime and reporting it to the police. Unfortunately, crime may go unreported in Hispanic neighborhoods, because residents may fear their immigration status will be questioned if they contact police. However, this fear only makes it easier for criminals to escape accountability and undermines the safety of neighborhoods we all live in.
While heated rhetoric over illegal immigration may contribute to reluctance among some to interact with law enforcement, the fact is that no one should worry that their immigration status will be a law enforcement concern when reporting a crime, whether as a victim or a witness. My goal is to ensure that people who harm other members of our community are held accountable.
Importantly, crime victims have specific rights under Arizona’s Constitution, including the right to be free from intimidation, harassment or abuse throughout the criminal justice process. Honoring and respecting victims’ rights is another pledge I made when I took office and one to which I am fully committed, regardless of the ethnicity or residency status of the victim.
Whether it’s in your neighborhood, mine, or somewhere else, crime must be reported. It is only by working together that I can fulfill my third pledge as county attorney: to protect and strengthen our community – and that means all communities.
Bill Montgomery was elected Maricopa County Attorney in 2010 on a pledge to serve, to fight crime, honor victims’ rights, and protect and strengthen our community. As a West Point graduate, decorated Gulf War veteran and professional prosecutor, he has dedicated his personal and professional life to serving others.