Local and state law enforcement agencies around the U.S. are taking unprecedented steps to police illegal immigration, a responsibility historically reserved for the federal government, reports the Houston Chronicle. This year, officers from 23 county and state agencies from Virginia to California have been trained under a 1996 federal law that allows them to make immigration arrests and process jailed illegal immigrants for deportation. That’s more than five times the number of training requests made to Immigration and Customs Enforcement in all of 2006. On the Southwest and Northern borders, local police are using $12 million in federal funds to conduct anti-terrorism patrols under the supervision of the U.S. Border Patrol. The program is called Operation Stonegarden.
The void of immigration reform in Washington, D.C., has prompted eight states to enact a dozen laws relating to immigration enforcement this year. The laws were among the 182 immigration-related bills passed in 43 states, more than double the number enacted in 2006. This year, Texas enacted legislation requiring immigration officials to be notified when a noncitizen is convicted of misdemeanor family violence. ”It is definitely a trend, and the major reason is the obvious one – federal inaction on the issue,” said Ann Morse of the National Council of State Legislatures.