After the El Paso County Sheriff conducted its sixth recent raid recently capturing more than 200 total alleged illegal immigrants, the Mexican consulate protested to ask the Sheriff to cease its dabbling in immigration enforcement. (The chief of the El Paso PD, by contrast, has said he opposes local officers enforcing civil immigration statutes.) The whole process sounds a little loosey-goosey. Sheriff's deputies explained to a local TV station the sophisticated process by which they decide who to detain when no crime has been committed:
“We padded them down for immediate weapons, turns out they didn't have any weapons on them, so we called border patrol. You can tell they were undocumented immigrants." (Interpretation: Brown skin, check, speaks spanish, check, load 'em in the truck, then.)As I've argued many times, the strategy of using local police to enforce immigration laws invites greater lawlessness, prioritizing fear and xenophobia over public safety. Reported the El Paso Times ("Mexican Consulate criticizes sheriff's role in arrests," April 20):
Critics said that blurring the line between criminal and immigration investigations risks scaring some crime victims away from calling the police for help.That just seems wrong - they have no authority to conduct immigration raids and no probable cause to detain many of these folks beyond suspicions about immigration status. And BTW, since when did Operation Linebacker become a "mandate" for these kind of shennanigans? I hope that's not what the Governor's people told the sheriffs they were supposed to be doing. Those block grants were portrayed to the public as supplementing patrols, not some new "mandate" for local police to start enforcing immigration laws.
"If they (sheriff's officials) want to do joint operations with the Border Patrol, that's fine," [Consulate spokeswoman Socorro] Cordova said. "But in most of these cases, they arrive before the Border Patrol."
Sheriff's officials said the raid was well under their "Operation Linebacker" mandate. The operation put more officers on patrol on the border, thanks to a state grant that pays for overtime. The operation gives the officers no new arrest powers and officers cannot arrest people for immigration violations. But officials said they can turn over the suspected undocumented immigrants they encounter during normal patrol to the Border Patrol.
Via Bender's Immigration Bulletin