Police Officers and Immigration Law Enforcement
An estimated eight million undocumented aliens reside in the United States. Until approximately 2003, it was solely the task of federal immigration officials to locate, question and apprehend such individuals. However, for approximately one year, beginning in mid-2002, the State of Florida experimented with a pilot program which allowed Florida police officers to enforce federal immigration law.
Thirty-five Florida police officers were trained in the controversial program, and the operation resulted in more than 165 arrests. Action the Florida officers have taken includes organized sweeps of undocumented workers at airports and seaports and checking the immigration status of individuals of Middle Eastern descent. Other states have shown interest in similar pilot programs.
Critics of the program argue that granting local police officers the authority to enforce federal law is stretching domestic security too far. Immigrant and civil rights advocates also claim that public safety as a whole will suffer because many immigrants will be discouraged from reporting crimes, due to fear of police apprehension.
Details of the Florida Pilot Program
- The Florida officers are assigned among Florida’s various regional national security task force offices
- The officer’s salaries are paid by local agencies
- Pursuant to the pilot program, the participating police officers are federally deputized and, as such, may only be responsble for domestic security cases
- In the future, programs may have no such restriction immigrant-control advocates and some lawmakers want hundreds of thousands of local police officers to help immigration officials apprehend illegal aliens
As stated above, other states have shown interest in deputizing local police officers to assist in immigration matters. Alabama hopes to soon train 25 officers to assist federal agents in controlling immigration violations, and Los Angeles County has also inquired about deputizing officers.