Local police little help to feds on illegal aliens

By Jon Dougherty

Few local police departments are responding to Immigration and Naturalization Service efforts to utilize them to help interdict internal illegal immigrant traffic, even as the terrorist threat from outside the U.S. increases, police sources tell WorldNetDaily.

Additionally, say officers, a new computer database being developed by INS specifically for that mission – and which contains names of illegal aliens and persons suspected of overstaying visas – will be worthless because many local police agencies have adopted policies forbidding officers from detaining “undocumented” immigrants and, hence, will have no use for it.

Word of a hands-off approach by local departments comes as INS, the Border Patrol and Justice continue to struggle in curbing illegal immigrant traffic – and, perhaps, the infiltration into the country of foreign terrorists – since the 9-11 attacks. At least three of the 9-11 hijackers had overstayed their immigration visas, U.S. authorities said last year, and would have, theoretically, been listed in such a database.

As WorldNetDaily reported Sept. 18, the INS has managed to round up fewer than 900 foreign fugitives from an estimated pool of 314,000 since announcing a post-Sept. 11 crackdown on aliens who have ignored deportation orders.

According to INS spokeswoman Nancy Cohen, just 895 fugitives have been picked up by authorities over the past nine months, up from 806 in July. Part of that may be because INS does not have enough special agents to track down suspected fugitives; officials told WorldNetDaily there are fewer than 2,000 special agents nationwide to conduct all interior enforcement operations.

But part of it also may be due to a lack of assistance given INS by local police.

Las Vegas police, as well as a number of other departments in Nevada, have a policy specifically forbidding officers from stopping suspected illegal immigrants if that is their only crime, says one LVPD officer who requested anonymity. The same is true for the New York City Police Department, a spokesman told WND.

Don Aaron, a spokesman for the Nashville Police Department, said his agency had no specific policy regarding officers stopping and arresting people suspected of being in the country illegally. But he defended those policies in other departments.

“I don’t know how you could get into that without [racially] profiling people, and our department does have a policy prohibiting that,” Aaron said, noting Nashville police work “extensively” with the INS.

There are some exceptions. A public-relations officer for the St. Louis County Police Department said officers there are allowed to stop persons suspected of being in the country illegally, then detain them for later pickup and processing by the INS.

And some states, like Florida, have teamed up with federal officials to form special task forces using local cops to arrest illegal immigrants. Other states, such as South Carolina and Alabama, are considering taking similar measures.

In fact, according to a March 30, 1999, INS press release, the agency said it had deployed 45 “new Quick Response Teams in 11 states and expand coverage of the INS Law Enforcement Support Center to seven additional states.”

“The actions are part of the agency’s effort to strengthen enforcement in the interior of the United States, and expand cooperation with state and local law-enforcement agencies,” said the statement.

The aim of the QRTs is to “apprehend and remove illegal aliens encountered by state and local law-enforcement officials. …” The agency said 200 officers are assigned to the QRTs and are tasked with assisting “state and local law-enforcement agencies that encounter problems with illegal migration, either transient or resident.”

“Designed to respond swiftly and decisively, the QRTs will reinforce the priorities of the interior enforcement strategy by minimizing the impact of criminal alien and smuggling activity on local law enforcement and the communities they serve,” said the INS statement.

According to the INS, QRTs were established in Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, North Carolina, Nebraska, South Carolina, Tennessee and Utah. Those states were chosen, the agency says, “due to growing illegal immigration problems in areas that typically had not been affected by illegal immigration in the past.”

INS’ Cohen told WorldNetDaily yesterday that according to the agency’s most recent data, “in the first half of this year, the QRTs were able to respond to 94 percent of requests from local law enforcement.”

While not 100 percent, she added, “clearly it shows we are working with law enforcement.”

Yet, says Dan Stein, executive director of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, most police agencies that he has approached have never heard of the QRTs. And, he says, local cops “don’t go out there with the intention of helping INS find anybody … unless there is some extraordinary reason, like terrorism.”

“This whole area of state and local cooperation [with federal authorities] is an area of enormous exasperation,” said Stein.

Indeed, sources and reports indicate that the most oft-heard complaint by local cops who arrest illegals is that INS officials refuse to come pick them up, which means they’ll be released back onto the streets. Frustrated, many local cops will no longer pursue them, regardless of their department’s policy.

In an interview with local reporters, Greenfield, Ill., Mayor Don Chapman said he was angered by the INS’s refusal in July to pick up a pair of undocumented aliens after they were detained following a traffic stop.

“When INS told our law-enforcement officers that they didn’t have enough (of a problem) for their agency to do anything, and to turn the illegal aliens loose, that really set me on fire,” he said.

And in Baltimore last week, two men – a Canadian of Pakistani origin and a Pakistani, both of whom were in the country illegally – were released after posting $5,000 bond each. Police Commissioner Edward T. Norris said the men should not have been released, not only because they were in the country illegally but because they came from a country the U.S. has associated with terrorism. Local reports said federal officials repeatedly claimed that the men did not appear to commit any offenses other than overstaying visas and therefore were not a threat.

“I think we have a little more than visa fraud,” Norris told local reporters. “I’m suspicious of these gentlemen.”

There are even environmental concerns stemming from an inability or unwillingness on the part of authorities to find, detain and deport suspected illegal aliens. Officials in Arizona, for instance, blame illegal immigrants for starting eight major wildfires in the state this year alone, which cost taxpayers more than $5 million to battle and destroyed 108 square miles of land.

The lack of federal-local cooperation has been years in the making, says Stein.

“Over the years, states have … taken it upon themselves to not cooperate” with federal immigration officials, he told WND, because of the agency’s frequent refusal to pick up suspected illegal aliens held by local authorities.

In that time, he said, identity politics and charges of profiling have led many departments to adopt policies refraining from detaining people solely on the basis that they may be in the country illegally.

“They capitulated to the demands of [immigrants’ rights] groups,” Stein charged.

Also, there could be an institutional bias among local police agencies against performing a law-enforcement function specifically designated to a federal agency.

“In 1996, Congress authorized the attorney general to make agreements with state and local governments permitting them to enforce immigration laws,” say Brookings Institution scholars James Lindsey and Audrey Singer, in a May 8 editorial for the New York Times. “But before Sept. 11, lack of state and local interest, coupled with opposition by pro-immigrant and business groups, kept agreements from being struck.”

“The Bush administration now wants to put the 1996 law to work,” they wrote. “But it is doubtful that turning state and local police loose on illegal immigrants will do much to stop terrorism.”

And, they concluded, “state and local police probably would not have prevented Sept. 11, even if they had been empowered to enforce immigration laws.”

Further, the New York Times reported in May, “many police departments have voiced concern that the new Justice Department proposal would jeopardize their relations with immigrants, who would be less willing to report crimes.”

Still, some street cops say illegal immigration is against the law, and police – as well as INS – should be compelled to enforce immigration statutes, especially in a time of increased threats of terrorism.

And some are. In January, the Sheriff’s Department in Kenedy County, Texas, began to arrest illegal aliens “simply for being in the country,” according to a local reporter quoted by the Federation for American Immigration Reform.

With the unanimous backing of the county commissioners, Sheriff Rafael Cuellar arrested six illegal immigrants, though in the past he could have arrested them only if they were breaking some state law.

“We should be picking illegal immigrants up, and INS ought to be coming around and getting them like they used to,” agreed one veteran Nevada police officer, who asked not to be identified.

U.S. courts are also siding with local law enforcers. In October 2000, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal of a landmark decision by the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals that confirms that state and local police officers are free to arrest illegal aliens to the full extent permitted by their state law.

“A similar decision has been handed down recently in the 5th Circuit, which held that the Ohio Highway Patrol can question motorists about their immigration status who’ve been pulled over for traffic violations,” said the Federation for American Immigration Reform in an editorial.

“[Bush adviser] Karl Rove has convinced ‘Dubya’ that all these ‘migrants’ will soon become citizens and vote for him,” said one fed-up ex-cop. “Many never become citizens, many are criminals and smugglers, [and] the few who do become naturalized become Democrats with their hands out.”

“Instead of giving $50 billion to the [United Nations] for some food-aid program, we ought to spend that money” to enhance border security and “end what I consider an invasion of this country,” the Nevada cop said.

Related stories:

U.S., Ashcroft, get tough with Paki, Saudi visitors

Critics: Borders still porous as sieves

INS hasn’t closed terrorist loopholes

Increasing alarm over border security

Border killing points up security lack

INS loses 73 inspectors since 9-11

U.S. demands probe of border ‘act of war’

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