2004 April 14 Wednesday
State Governments Move To Enforce Immigration Laws

Rachel L. Swans has an article in the New York Times about efforts of states to begin enforcing immigration laws in cooperation with the US Department of Homeland Security.

Alabama is the epicenter of a widening effort by the Department of Homeland Security to encourage states and localities to help enforce immigration laws in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks.

Colorado, Idaho and Virginia are considering following the examples of Alabama, which began its partnership with the Department of Homeland Security in September, and Florida, which signed an agreement with federal officials in 2002. In Los Angeles County, the sheriff's office is close to an agreement to allow booking officers to identify illegal immigrants in county jails for deportation.

The creation of the Department of Homeland Security appears to be having a net effect of stiffening immigration law enforcement. As more states sign on the enforcement effort for immigration laws may become much more thorough.

There is a lot of activity at the state level about immigration law. Some governors and state legislators have tried to legalize driver's licenses for illegal aliens. This has caused considerable opposition to develop. Governor Jeb Bush's proposal for illegal alien driver's licenses has produced widespread opposition by Florida sheriffs to Jeb Bush's proposal.

TALLAHASSEE - Sheriffs around the state are quickly opposing a proposal backed by Gov. Jeb Bush to allow illegal immigrants to obtain driver's licenses, saying it is too great a security risk.

The opposition has included sheriffs who serve on the state's Domestic Security Task Force.

"It's incomprehensible to me that you would legitimize through the issuance of a driver's license someone who is here illegally," said Marion County Sheriff Ed Dean, who heads the law enforcement arm of the task force. "I'm sure the governor has his reasons. From strictly a law enforcement viewpoint, I would have to respectfully disagree."

The President of the Colorado state Senate is sponsoring a bill to require Colorado police and other government employees to enforce federal immigration law.

DENVER -- A legislative committee has cleared the way for full Senate debate on a bill that could eventually lead to state police and other state employees helping the U.S. Department of Homeland Security enforce federal immigration laws.


Senate President John Andrews, R-Centennial, said he is sponsoring Senate Bill 210 because the United States has been "invaded" by an estimated 12 million illegal immigrants, about 250,000 of whom he said are living in Colorado.

While many states are debating and adopting policies to enforce immigration law Maine has just taken a step in the opposite direction against the national trend.

AUGUSTA Gov. John Baldacci signed an executive order Friday prohibiting state employees who provide public services from asking about a person's immigration status. The new policy mirrors those adopted by a number of cities across the country, including Portland, but it appears to be the first statewide measure of its kind in the nation.

Some federal law changes have encouraged the trend toward local immigration law enforcement. The Trafficking Victims Protection Act has led to a federally funded pilot effort to stop human smuggling for slavery and indentured servitude.

Philadelphia is one of three cities chosen to develop a pilot program to implement the Trafficking Victims Protection Act enacted in 2000. Phoenix and Atlanta are the other cities.

The U.S. effort is part of the United Nations' world-wide crackdown on human smugglers who turn 800,000 to 900,000 humans into slaves each year.

More federal support for local immigration law enforcement may be forthcoming. Georgia Republican Congressional Rep. Charles Norwood jhas introduced federal legislation aimed at getting state and local police and other law enforcement officials involved in immigration law enforcement.

The CLEAR Act, introduced last July, makes it "clear" that the nation's 600,000 state and local law enforcement officials have the jurisdictional authority to enforce immigration laws while making their ordinary rounds. (CLEAR stands for Clear Law Enforcement for Criminal Alien Removal Act of 2003.)

The bill would "encourage" state and local police departments to "investigate, apprehend, detain, or remove aliens" discovered in the course of their normal law enforcement duties.

Norwood's CLEAR Act has many cosponsors and yet faces considerable opposition.

Backers of the legislation, noting the House version has 120 co-sponsors, hope for passage this year. And a House Judiciary Committee spokesman, Jeff Lungren, said that although prospects for the bill there may seem uncertain, "I would disagree that it's dead."

But others say the congressional inaction reflects the growing resistance from police and municipal groups, including the Phoenix Police Department, who are joined by immigrant advocates in the belief that legislation would erode trust between immigrants and police and divert needed resources from other law enforcement areas.

The trend toward state level enforcement of immigration laws could get a big boost if more groups start putting initiatives on state ballots to require the enforcement. Most of the Western states have voter ballot initiative processes in their constitutions as those states were created and their constitutions written when the voter initiative process was in vogue. The ability of voters to force policy changes allows a way for popular anger about immigration to be expressed as policy changes in spite of elite support for mass low skilled and illegal immigration.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2004 April 14 04:20 PM  Immigration Law Enforcement


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