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  1. #1
    Senior Member controlledImmigration's Avatar
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    Aug 2007

    Local police cite conflict in priorities on illegals

    Local police cite conflict in priorities on illegal immigrants

    By Patrick M. O'Connell

    Gov. Matt Blunt urged police agencies in Missouri on Thursday to work better with federal immigration officers in cracking down on illegal immigration.

    But police officers here said in response that they lack the ability to quickly check a person's immigration status. The result: situations such as that of Sergio Lopez, who in July was sent on his way with only a ticket after police said he caused a traffic accident in south St. Louis. On Tuesday, police said Lopez ran an SUV into some outdoor diners in Clayton, injuring three. Lopez, an illegal immigrant, could have been detained after the July accident had his immigration status been determined.

    A driver without a license, registration or insurance cannot be detained simply because he or she lacks identification, police here said.

    Officers routinely contact Immigration and Customs Enforcement when the immigration status of a motorist is in question, but responses from ICE can take hours, police officers said. And even if the motorist is determined to be in the country illegally, there is no guarantee that ICE is interested in starting detention or deportation procedures.

    "This is a constant problem," said Maplewood Police Chief James White, whose department often comes in contact with motorists who cannot provide valid U.S. identification. ICE doesn't "have the time and the manpower to deal with only a few illegals."

    White said his department towed the cars of drivers who lack valid licenses, plates or registrations, and book and fingerprint the drivers. But after the officers issue citations, the drivers are free to go.

    A Maplewood officer pulled over a truck with a dozen illegal immigrants inside about a year ago, and the department contacted ICE. The official who answered, White said, laughed and responded, "Call back when you have 50."

    ICE spokesman Carl Rusnok emphasized that his organization deported 197,000 illegal immigrants nationwide in fiscal year 2006, and must prioritize based on those people who pose the biggest threat to the safety of the United States.

    "We work very, very closely with local law enforcement agencies," Rusnok said. "Our primary concern is the same goal of local agencies, and that is to help make communities safer, and the best way to do that is to go after illegal aliens with criminal convictions."

    Blunt announced Thursday that he would seek money that would allow officers from local police departments to train to become federally deputized agents capable of initiating immigration procedures.

    "Ideally this is a federal issue, but Washington has failed," Blunt said in an interview in St. Louis.

    Last month, Blunt ordered the Highway Patrol to check the immigration status of everyone it incarcerated — regardless of their name or ethnicity.

    Critics say the law has already led to racial profiling of Hispanics.

    Jorge Riopedre, secretary of the St. Louis-area Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, said Hispanic business owner Luis Ortiz was stopped by a patrol agent while driving home from Steelville on Labor Day weekend.

    The agent asked to see the driver's license of everyone in the car with Ortiz, Riopedre said.

    "It is our opinion that the reason the patrol agent asked for everyone's license was because they are Hispanic," Riopedre said. "You spread that out to every municipality and every police officer around, let me tell you, in my opinion there is trouble brewing."

    Plans already are in place to have ICE train and deputize about 20 Highway Patrol officers, four water patrol officers and a Capitol officer in an effort to increase the state's ability to check for and detain illegal immigrants.

    St. Charles took the first step last week toward getting trained by federal immigration officials, but several St. Louis area police department officials, including St. Louis County and Florissant, said that Thursday was the first time they had heard of the governor's proposals.

    In the meantime, police officers say their ability to identify illegal immigrants remains limited.

    "The money and the manpower is not there to enforce each illegal pulled over," said St. Louis County police spokeswoman Tracy Panus. "It's just not the reality. We don't have many options."

    On July 26, Lopez, 23, was ticketed for his involvement in an accident on South Kingshighway, but the St. Louis police report makes no mention about Lopez's immigration status and does not indicate that ICE had been contacted.

    On Tuesday, Lopez said he was blinded by light when he drove his SUV into the outdoor eating area of the Il Vicino restaurant. Lopez again was issued traffic citations, and after police contacted ICE, is now is in the custody of immigration officials.

    Bill Bryan of the Post-Dispatch and the Associated Press contributed to this report. | 314-863-2821 ... enDocument

  2. #2
    Senior Member Rockfish's Avatar
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    Jun 2005
    From FLA to GA as of 04/01/07
    A driver without a license, registration or insurance cannot be detained simply because he or she lacks identification, police here said.
    If I was caught driving without a license or insurance, I would expect to be detained. This statement is totally absured. The police officer who said this should have his head examined.
    Join our efforts to Secure America's Borders and End Illegal Immigration by Joining ALIPAC's E-Mail Alerts network (CLICK HERE)

  3. #3
    Expendable's Avatar
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    Jan 1970
    Common sense says they should be detained until their identity could be established. Basically they're saying "You could be a mass murderer wanted in 30 states, and as long as you don't carry ID on you, you'll never be caught -even if you run over a group of people? Things that make you go "hmm..."

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