As more law enforcement agencies sign up for immigration-law enforcement training, local officers are divided over whether their participation significantly reduces local crime or illegal immigration, reports McClatchy Newspapers. Many places forgo the practice, creating a patchwork of different policies across the nation. “This is a national problem that is now being handled in a variety of ways at the local level simply because we’re not getting good guidance out of Washington,” said Sheriff Mark Luttrell, who oversees a Tennessee county that surrounds Memphis. “There is still a great deal of confusion over the best way to tackle immigration.” The Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency says the local efforts prevent crime and have helped detect 32,000 illegal immigrants who otherwise may have remained in the country.
With violent crime rising in cities, many police chiefs question whether their resources are better spent preventing and solving local crime. “Taking a patrol officer off the street to book someone who is here because of all the failures of the federal system is not a priority of big-city law enforcement,” said Thomas Frazier of the Major Cities Chiefs Association, representing chiefs of 64 large police departments. In one of the most controversial versions of the program, Sheriff Joe Arpaio encourages his deputies in Maricopa County, Az., to patrol areas where illegal immigrants are known to congregate, including churches. “Anyone in law enforcement who says that illegal immigrants aren’t the source of crimes is either disconnected from reality or pandering to special-interest groups,” said Arpaio.