Freedom Folks

Sunday, January 28, 2007

This Is How It Happens!

Source: napavalleyregister

PHOENIX -- More than any other police boss in Arizona, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio has pushed the bounds of what local officers can do to crack down on illegal immigration -- and he's frustrated that he can't do more.

He created a special unit to enforce an Arizona law that made immigrant smuggling a state crime, sent a 250-member posse into the desert to search for human smugglers and sought a legal opinion allowing him to arrest not only smugglers but also their customers.

But Arpaio is bothered that his deputies can't make immigration arrests when coming across suspected illegal immigrants in traffic stops and other police calls, so he is among a rising number of local police bosses seeking the power to charge people with immigration violations.

"Right now, if you came across an illegal, law enforcement would have to stop everything, call (federal immigration agents) and hope they come over and pick up that person," Arpaio said. "They usually don't respond to pick up one person."

While state and local law enforcement have generally stayed out of immigration enforcement in the past, 42 agencies across the country are now asking the federal government to train officers to make immigration arrests and speed up deportations. Many more departments have expressed interest in the training.

A total of 188 police and corrections officers from eight agencies have been granted that power since 2002. If all pending applications for the federal power are approved, officials estimated the total could reach as high as 530.

A deal expected to be approved in the coming weeks would grant that power to about 160 patrol and jail officers in Arpaio's department, marking the largest one-time addition in the effort. His county, which includes Phoenix, is a hub for transporting illegal immigrants across the country.

Immigration analysts say interest in such agreements is growing because the public is getting more frustrated with America's broken immigration system.

Federal officials, who attribute the increasing interest in the training to recruiting efforts, said local police recognize that the broadened powers will help make communities safer.

"It's a force multiplier," said Marcy Forman, director of investigations for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the federal agency responsible for immigration enforcement beyond the border.

The move would put state and local officers one step closer to the frontline in the battle against illegal immigration.

State and local officers in the field could make immigration arrests while carrying out their regular duties, but couldn't set up roadblocks, conduct raids or take actions for the sole purpose of making immigration arrests. Only two state agencies currently have that power, accounting for two-thirds of all officers with the training.

Officers also could participate in federal task forces whose duties include cracking down on fake documents used by illegal immigrants and border-crossers who fraudulently seek government benefits.

The training for jail and prison officers is designed to speed up the deportations of criminal immigrants after they complete sentences on state violations, reducing local corrections costs because it gets them in the hands of federal authorities quicker.

Corrections officers can determine through questioning and database checks whether the presence of inmates is lawful and can charge violators with being in the country illegally.

Of the 42 agencies applying for the federal authority, 21 are seeking the powers for jail officers, 14 for making immigration arrests and seven want both.

Supporters said local officers should join the fight because Immigration and Customs Enforcement has only 5,800 agents to enforce immigration law in the nation's interior.

Since October 2005, more than 9,000 people were put in deportation proceedings through the efforts of state and local officers who received the training, officials said.

Opponents said local enforcement could ruin the trust police officers have built in immigrant communities and could lead to racial profiling.

"Our experience is that when local police engaged in that activity, there are civil rights violations," said Michele Waslin, director of immigration policy research for the National Council of La Raza, a group that promotes Hispanic issues.

The training includes lessons on immigration law, anti-racial profiling efforts and instructions on questioning people about their immigration status without violating civil rights. The classes last four to five weeks.

A 1996 law opened up the possibility for local officers to be trained for immigration enforcement, but it wasn't until 2002 that the Florida Department of Law Enforcement became the first agency to get approval for the broader powers.

Mark Zadra, the Florida department's special agent in charge of domestic security and intelligence, said his agency's deal allowed it to invoke the federal power only during homeland security investigations.

The department doesn't crack down on rank-and-file illegal immigrants who come to the United States to support their families, Zadra said.

The Alabama Department of Public Safety, which has a less restrictive approach than the Florida agency, weaves its immigration work into the daily routines of some of its highway troopers and supervisors at driver's license offices.

Massachusetts had agreed late last year to train 30 state troopers to make immigration arrests, but the newly elected governor is rescinding the policy. Officials are renegotiating the deal with the goal to train corrections officers instead.

Though his office has arrested more than 380 illegal border-crossers in the last 10 months under Arizona's anti-smuggling law, Arpaio noted the law allows him to only target people involved in smuggling.

The sheriff said he needs the broader federal powers to target those who are already living here illegally. "I will do anything I can to keep fighting this problem," Arpaio said.
I reiterate: Washington Is Not Our Savior

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