Orange County, Calif., Sheriff’s Department officials said Thursday they planned to train as many as 500 deputies to enforce federal immigration laws, becoming the latest Southern California police agency to become more actively involved in immigration issues. The move comes as police departments in Los Angeles and elsewhere have begun tinkering with the strict barrier between officers and immigration officials, reports the Los Angeles Times.
The Los Angeles Police Department and a number of other big-city police agencies for years have prohibited officers from seeking residency information from crime victims and witnesses. The policies have been aimed at making illegal immigrants more willing to cooperate with authorities. Now those policies have begun to bend. Since the Sept. 11 attacks, some have questioned whether “sanctuary rules” limiting cooperation between police and immigration officials have unnecessarily tied the hands of law enforcement and impeded anti-terrorism efforts. Local police departments also have been concerned about the rise of international street gangs such as Mara Salvatrucha, whose members cross state and international borders.