Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt has urged police agencies to work better with federal immigration officers in cracking down on illegal immigration. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch says that police officers report they lack the ability to check a person’s immigration status quickly. Sergio Lopez was sent on his way with only a ticket after police said he caused a traffic accident in July. On Tuesday, police said he ran an SUV into some outdoor diners, injuring three. Lopez, an illegal immigrant, could have been detained after the July accident had his immigration status been determined.
Officers routinely get in touch with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency when the immigration status of a motorist is in question, but responses from ICE can take hours. 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.” Gov. Blunt is seeking 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,” he said.