Immigration advocates fear that the escalating involvement of local police in immigration-related arrests will erode an already tense relationship between South Florida’s immigrant communities and officers entrusted with keeping people safe, reports the Miami Herald. Since Sept. 11, 2001, it has become routine for major South Florida police departments to assist immigration authorities during arrests in certain cases. Some local police agencies also call immigration officials if a criminal suspect appears undocumented. ”We have started down the slippery slope toward local enforcement of federal immigration work that is problematic because immigration law is very complicated and best left to those properly trained,” said Randolph McGrorty of the Archdiocese of Miami’s Catholic Charities Legal Services.
The role of local police in immigration enforcement has rankled immigration advocates as Congress resumes debate on immigration reform. Some of President Bush’s critics believe that the administration should tap local police to enforce immigration laws as a way to deter unauthorized immigration — in addition to enlisting the National Guard in border security. They maintain that police officers, estimated at more than 600,000 nationwide, could quickly boost the reach of the 5,500 immigration agents and 11,000 Border Patrol officers.