The ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) Agency has had a program available since 1996 to teach local law enforcement agencies how to properly handle the capture of suspected illegal aliens. Until 2002, only one agency had participated. Now, after growing political and public pressure to address illegal immigration, ICE has trained 41 additional agencies and has 92 more lined up waiting to complete training as well.
Deputies in Houston, Texas, routinely check the immigration status of individuals who are booked into the county jail. New Jersey law enforcement is under orders from the state attorney general to verify citizenship status of individuals taken into custody. Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty has ordered state officials to enforce immigration laws. And, it goes without saying, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Phoenix, Arizona, is taking on the enforcement of immigration laws.
Critics have lined up on both sides of the argument for and against the current move toward apprehending illegals. Some argue that it makes certain individuals more suspicion and apprehensive in contacting law enforcement when they need it out of fear of having their residency status scrutinized. Others feel that it's past time for local agencies to step in and do their part in enforcing the laws that are on the books which make being in the country illegally a crime.
That fear has been exacerbated by accounts — some rumored, some real — of people being turned over to immigration officials after being stopped for minor offenses such as traffic violations and loitering, or after going to police to report a crime.
In Newark, N.J., a freelance photographer who stumbled upon on a dead body in an alley and reported the discovery to police was detained and asked about his immigration status.
In Falls Church, Va., staffers at the Tarirhu Justice Center, which works with immigrant victims of domestic abuse, say they are fielding calls from women who have been assaulted, yet refuse to go to police.
Rumor and speculation, sometimes spread by those who advocate amnesty for those living here illegally, don't help dispel mistrust for law enforcement agencies who are simply trying to enforce the law.
One thing is for certain, and that is that with the large number of illegal immigrants who have already established themselves in our country, it's not going to be an easy task for any agency or agencies. However, perhaps the words of Joe Arpaio sum it up better than any that have been spoken by any other law enforcement official; "People ask me why I am taking this on? The last I heard, crossing the border is an illegal activity. I took an oath of office to enforce the law, so I am enforcing the law."
Once and Always, an American Fighting Man