Officials in many other parts of the U.S. remain reluctant to enforce immigration laws, saying they fear losing the trust of immigrant communities and worry about being accused of racial profiling, reports the Washington Post. Despite a nationwide clamor against illegal immigration, only 55 of more than 18,000 police and law enforcement agencies across the country have signed agreements to coordinate with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Officials say such efforts can backfire by making immigrants reluctant to report crimes, exposing departments to lawsuits, and putting local police officers in confusing and dangerous situations that can lead to mistakes and abuse.
El Paso mayor John Cook, described his mostly Hispanic city on the Mexican border as “the second-safest city in America,” in part because it stresses community police involvement. While recognizing that illegal immigration is a crime, he said he is also worried about a growing public perception that immigrants are criminals. The Police Foundation, a private national group that sponsored a conference on the subject last week, held four focus groups with law enforcement and other officials in Kansas, Texas and Florida. Consultant Anita Khashu said three of the four groups decided that immigration enforcement should remain “solely a federal responsibility.” Legal experts and advocates at the meeting said immigration law is increasingly being “criminalized” to prosecute people who have crossed the border to find work, especially by charging them with identity fraud, and that civil immigration warrants are being used like criminal warrants, even though they do not carry the same powers, such as the right to enter a home without permission.