Momentum to deputize local police as immigration agents in the U.S. grew after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist, but law enforcement officers have been reluctant to oblige, says WashingtonPost.com columnist Marcela Sanchez. By mid-2004, says the National Immigration Law Center, more than 50 localities, including some of the largest cities, had enacted laws, resolutions or policies limiting such activity. It is possible that faced with increased public scrutiny and frustration with a broken immigration system, more communities will seek to reverse the trend against localized immigration enforcement, says Sanchez.
That’s what happened this year in Virginia Beach, Va., where local police officers became able to ask non-felony suspects about their immigration status. The change occurred after a drunk driver, in the country illegally, hit and killed two teenagers. President Bush has asked for $26.4 million, a fivefold increase, to train and equip 250 state and local law enforcement officers. Doris Meissner, commissioner of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service during the Clinton years, predicted that the likely result from recent increased public pressure will be that police departments in small- and medium-sized communities will join in the enforcement effort while departments in large cities will remain uninterested, sufficiently sophisticated to “recognize what the hazards are in getting involved.”