Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Local Law Enforcement and Illegal Immigraiton

Did you know that some states can participate in a federal program to enforce immigration laws? Yesterday's Lou Dobbs Tonight had a report and follow-up interview with a local law enforecment official on the frontlines of the southern border. Here's the transcript (emphasis added):
...Tonight, local law enforcement officials are fed up with Washington's inaction on illegal immigration. And they're discovering that they have the power to enforce federal immigration laws themselves. But Washington is refusing to support the battle against illegal immigration on the local level and refusing to support local law enforcement.

Lisa Sylvester has the report.


LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Alabama state troopers are among the few local law officers in the country who are able to enforce federal immigration laws. They can detain illegal aliens and even start deportation proceedings.

MAJ. CHARLES ANDREWS, ALABAMA DEPT. OF PUBLIC SAFETY: We have encountered individuals since we initiated this program that have been caught smuggling drugs, involved in illegal trafficking of people. We've also encountered individuals who were wanted from other countries.

SYLVESTER: A 1996 law authorizes the Department of Homeland Security to delegate immigration enforcement authority to local police. The training costs $520 per officer, paid by the federal government.

Yet, few jurisdictions are participating. Watchdog group Judicial Watch obtained more than 100 pages of DHS documents through the Freedom of Information Act. They show localities in only four states. Florida, Alabama, Arizona and California have signed up. North Carolina's correction officers are in the process of being trained, and New Hampshire and Texas are awaiting approval.

CHRIS FARRELL, JUDICIAL WATCH: The politicians who address this issue now either need to lead, follow or get out of the way. There's an opportunity for them under the -- under the federal law to partner with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

SYLVESTER: The Federation for American Immigration Reform says the political will is lacking.

DAN STEIN, FED. FOR AMERICAN IMMIGRATION REFORM: It's now been 10 years since Congress explicitly said states can help enforce immigration law. Very little has been done, because we haven't had leadership at the executive level and we haven't had the funding needed to train these folks at the local level.

SYLVESTER: Local law officers have the manpower that the federal government does not have. In Alabama, there are more than 650 state troopers, only seven Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agents.


SYLVESTER: Jurisdictions in 11 states inquired about the federal program. And that list includes Herndon, Virginia, the site of a day laborer center that received national attention. Critics there say that center is being used by illegal aliens -- Lou.

DOBBS: Seven ICE agents, and the federal government, as Casey Wian reporting, Senator Cornyn saying that Americans are skeptical about our government's willingness, ability and motivation to enforce immigration laws or border security.

I wonder where any American would get that idea.

SYLVESTER: That is indeed correct. And this is a perfect example where people are fed up and local law enforcement is stepping in. But again, they have a problem with lack of funding from the federal government. And many people, many localities don't even know that this program exists because the federal government has not done a lot to promote this program -- Lou.

DOBBS: And later in this broadcast, we're going to introduce you to a sheriff's -- a county sheriff who is doing a great deal to stop illegal immigration in his community. And he has run head long into the Immigration and Customs Enforcement bureaucracy that will not support him or his community.

Sheriff Joe Arpaio coming up here later in the broadcast...

...DOBBS: In Mexico tonight, Mexican government officials have introduced a bill that would eliminate jail terms for illegal immigration into Mexico. The new bill says illegal aliens coming into Mexico should be fined, not jailed as current law requires.

Supporters of that legislation saying their bill is in response to the, quote, "new reality of immigration." They say Mexico cannot demand that the U.S. grant amnesty to its illegal aliens while still making illegal immigration a crime punishable by two years in prison in Mexico as they have been doing.

Tonight, Maricopa County sheriff Joe Arpaio is fighting an escalating battle with federal immigration officials as he fights against illegal immigration. Sheriff Arpaio has filed charges against some 250 illegal immigrants and their smugglers under Arizona's human smuggling law. The sheriff has been forced to free some of those illegal aliens because federal immigration officials refuse to recognize the state law. Sheriff Joe Arpaio joins us from Phoenix. Sheriff, good to have you here.

JOE ARPAIO, SHERIFF, MARICOPA COUNTY: Well, I'll tell you one thing not anymore, because I have my officers transporting these people all the way to the Mexican border, 150 miles, turning them over to border patrol who is nice enough to deport these convicted felons under that new state law.

DOBBS: Well, I know that would have had to have your blood boiling. Can I read you the immigration customs enforcement statement we just received? If we want to watch your blood boil. You ready?

ARPAIO: Go ahead.

DOBBS: Immigration and customs enforcement has refused to deport illegal aliens prosecuted under Arizona's human smuggling statute, quote, this is what you said, "for ICE to refuse to place holds on these inmates and deport them is inconsistent with the president's public statements that border security is a top priority for his administration."

Now how do you square that up with the people at ICE? And then I'll get to the ICE statement here in just two seconds.

ARPAIO: Well first of all, no matter what the charges, they've already put holes on 800 of my other criminals in jail, illegals. What's wrong with 258 that we arrested under this new law? They're still illegal, they went through the court system, they've been released. I'm not going to let them out on the streets of Phoenix because they won't pick them up and bring them to the border so I'm doing it.

DOBBS: And ICE is doing this across the country, we should point out, sheriff, to our audience, not just in Maricopa County or Phoenix, Arizona.

Here's the statement from ICE that we've just received. Quote, "ICE will not take custody of persons who are the subject of unauthorized state placed immigration detainees. Currently Maricopa County sheriff's personnel do not have the legal authority and training needed to lodge immigration holds. They could gain that authority by entering into an agreement with ICE to participate in the 287-G initiative. Yet they've declined to participate in the 287-G program."

Sheriff, how do you plead, guilty or not guilty?

ARPAIO: First of all, they want us to do their job. No. 2, all they have to come to the jail and interview them. However, all these convicted people have come through the court system for being illegal. What better proof do you need that they're illegal by going to trial for being illegal?

DOBBS: You're now taking care of deportation yourself with the cooperation the help, we should point out, of the border patrol. Where does this end? I mean, this looks like the federal government saying straightforwardly to Sheriff Joe Arpaio or whether it is mayor or elected official in this country not only are we not going to enforce immigration laws, you're not going to.

ARPAIO: I've got news for them. This is a state law, it's not a federal law. I will continue to enforce this state law until they change it. And the feds can lock these people up anyway, there is a law for being illegal. They never enforce that law. You can get six months in jail.

Why don't they enforce their own law? But you know, Lou, I come to the conclusion, nobody wants to lock up these illegals, whether here in Arizona, except me, or it's the federal government.

I think that's the bottom line, very sad.

DOBBS: It is sad. It is sad also because, as you know, from your community and as we know from receiving word from our audience all over this country, people have had a belly full of this.

And the fact that the U.S. Senate does not even have the courage to talk about border security on a national security basis five years after 9/11, and to contend with illegal immigration because they don't want to be anything other than lackeys to their corporate masters. It's a sick and sad shame.

ARPAIO: Well you know, I was a director in Mexico and Texas and Arizona for the U.S. drug enforcement years ago. Sad that this is occurring in our country today where the feds do not enforce the law. If you don't like it, take it off the books.

DOBBS: Sheriff Joe Arpaio, good to have you with us, good to talk with you.

ARPAIO: Thank you...


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