Three months after the local police inspected more than a dozen businesses searching for illegal immigrants using stolen Social Security numbers, the city of Milton in the Florida Panhandle has become more law-abiding, emptier, and whiter, reports the New York Times. Many Hispanic immigrants who came in 2004 to help rebuild after Hurricane Ivan have either fled or gone into hiding. Churches with services in Spanish are half-empty. Businesses are struggling to find workers. And for Hispanic citizens with roots here – the foremen and entrepreneurs who received visits from the police – the losses are especially profound.
Sheriff Wendell Hall of Santa Rosa County, who led the effort, said the arrests were for violations of state identity theft laws. He also seemed proud to have found a way around rules allowing only the federal government to enforce immigration laws. His approach is increasingly common. Last month, 260 illegal immigrants in Iowa were sentenced to five months in prison for violations of federal identity theft laws. Local police departments from coast to coast have rounded up hundreds of immigrants for nonviolent, often minor, crimes, like fishing without a license in Georgia, with the end result being deportation. In some cases, the police received training from the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement.