While Congress debates the problem of illegal immigrants, a small but increasing number of local and state law enforcement officials are taking it upon themselves to pursue deportation cases, reports the New York Times. In more than a dozen places, officials have invoked a little-used 1996 federal law to seek special federal training in immigration enforcement for officers. Elsewhere, local authorities are flagging some illegal immigrants who are caught up in the criminal justice system, sometimes for minor offenses, and are alerting immigration officials to their illegal status so that they can be deported.
Local law enforcement officials express frustration at the apparent inability of the federal government to stem the rise in illegal immigration. The Times says the frustration “is now reaching a point of crisis.” Contributing trends include a housing boom that attracted illegal workers, especially to distant suburbs and exurbs, where federal resources are especially thin; an apparent stagnation in the size of the federal immigration police force, which has remained at about 2,000 for several years; and increasing local opposition to illegal immigration, especially in the suburbs. George Terezakis, a Long Island immigration lawyer, said, “The heat is definitely getting turned up. Not just on criminals, but against people I would consider charged with relatively minor offenses: Having an invalid driver’s license, a fake Social Security card. A person with a job and a family can end up sitting in jail for months, and then being deported.”