Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Immigration Program Strains Local Law Enforcement

Immigration is a hot button issue that has already been discussed at length in this presidential election year. Perhaps the topic is no more passionately debated than in the states that form our southern border. One of the current questions facing the police forces in the Houston area is – how far can officers go in assisting with the federal issue of immigration control without compromising responsibilities to local matters of crime and justice?

The Department of Homeland Security has a division known as the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Part of ICE’s efforts includes a 287(g) program, which trains local authorities in immigration duties and gives the officers access to an extensive ICE fingerprint database. The hope is that giving the police officers such power will expedite the process of discovering and deporting those who have entered the country illegally.

The Houston Chronicle printed a story last week about the effect of ICE’s reliance on our communities. The main dilemma facing the suburbs surrounding Houston is the amount of time that officers would need to be away from their local duties in order to be trained by ICE – four or five weeks – as well as the fact that the county would have to continue to pay the salaries of its absent members. Because of these burdens on public safety and the county coffers, none of the six counties that surround Houston has yet applied for participation in the ICE program.

"Taking people out of pocket for an extended period of time would be a problem," said Cpl. Hugh Bishop, representative for the Liberty County Sheriff's Office.

Are the lines between federal and local responsibilities necessarily becoming blurred as the need to address immigration concerns reaches the forefront of policy discussions? If so, is there a way to train the needed law enforcement without further straining resources? These questions will need to be addressed as our country moves forward with the myriad of legal issues created by the immigrants entering our country every day.

With offices in Texas and Florida, we make it a priority at Bertolino LLP to keep ourselves at the forefront of immigration law. If you have an issue that requires legal assistance, please contact us and find out what we can do for you.

No comments: