Alabama Department of Public Safety becomes second police agency in the country authorized to enforce federal immigration laws
"In Alabama, 21 troopers passed a five-week federal course in the intricacies of immigration law."
"The troopers' new mission has unnerved Latinos in a state that is experiencing double-digit growth in its immigrant work force. The Mexican Consulate in Atlanta, which covers four Southern states, has set up a phone line for people to report abuses."
"'We have concerns that people will be pulled over for driving while Latino,' said Isabel Rubio of the Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama, a community group in Birmingham. 'I really don't feel like it's the role of any federal law enforcement agency to give its job over to state and local police.'"
"The legal authority of local police to enforce federal immigration laws has been debated."
"A central issue is that many immigration violations are civil, not criminal, offenses. For example, overstaying a visa — an infraction that accounts for 30% to 40% of illegal immigrants in the country — is a civil matter. Since city police don't collect back taxes for the IRS, they shouldn't round up deportees either, critics say."
Pending federal CLEAR legislation "would make civil immigration infractions — such as overstaying a visa — criminal violations. States that fail to pass legislation authorizing police to enforce immigration laws could lose federal funding for jailing criminal immigrants. Additional money would be allocated to states that embrace the program. And local police departments could be rewarded with the proceeds of assets seized from illegal immigrants, including homes, bank accounts and vehicles."
"In the past, immigration enforcement by local police has led to roundups that snared citizens as well as migrants, spawning lawsuits that took years to resolve. The track record of the current experiment is still open."
"Florida's program, with 35 officers, has been in place for a year and has led to 165 arrests, with no community complaints. The Florida agents were assigned to homeland security task forces and targeted document rings that were supplying false identification to foreigners."
"Ranking officers believe an understanding of immigration laws can help troopers carry out their duties under Alabama law."
"Before the immigration training, troopers said they were unsure what to do when they stopped someone they suspected of being an undocumented immigrant. Now they believe they have more options."
"Trooper Susanna Capps, a seven-year veteran, is a specialist in document fraud with the driver's license bureau. Last year, her division arrested 4,239 people trying to use false identification to get an Alabama license, the overwhelming majority of whom were U.S. citizens. Alabama does not grant driver's licenses to undocumented immigrants."