Saturday, March 29, 2008
AP reporter Monica Rohr In "Locals Crack Down on Illegal Immigration" raises some of the criminal justice issues raised for Latina/os with the increased local police involement in immigration enforcement. Rohr rells the story of Mayra Figueroa — a naturalized U.S. citizen, community organizer and licensed driver — who was pulled over by a Houston police officer, who told her he found it suspicious that a Latina was driving a late-model car. The story proceeds:
"The first thing the officer requested? Figueroa's Social Security card, as proof of citizenship. Until now, few local police and sheriff's departments wanted any part of enforcing federal civil immigration laws. They had their hands full with local crime — and needed witnesses and victims to work with them without fear. But as local governments feel mounting frustration over illegal immigration, that hands-off attitude is disappearing. More than 100 local law enforcement agencies — including Los Angeles and Orange counties in California and Maricopa County in Arizona, which includes Phoenix — have begun or are waiting for training to help the Department of Homeland Security root out illegal immigrants and hand them over for deportation. Advocates say the training beefs up the power of the overworked Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agency. Detractors say it will discourage millions of immigrants from reporting crime or cooperating with police investigations. They also cite evidence of poor training and overeager cops, like the one who questioned Figueroa. The ICE training program began 12 years ago in 1996, but had only one taker until 2002, when political pressure began to mount to fix the illegal immigration problem. Now 41 law enforcement agencies are trained, and 92 more are waiting in line."