JUNE 28, 2007
A north Florida county sheriff’s department has come under fire for creating an effective Illegal Alien Task Force which has helped rid the area of illegal immigrants and led to the arrest of some 500 people.
Bay County sheriff deputies simply pull up to construction sites in their patrol cars and watch for those who flee. Those who take off on foot are chased down and arrested on charges such as trespassing for cutting through private property or loitering for hiding in private yards. Those who speed off in cars are charged with reckless driving.
In a collaborative effort with federal authorities, sheriff officers then give immigration officials the names of those believed to be in the country illegally. The procedure is justified under a Florida law that specifically prohibits employers from hiring illegal immigrants and it has helped curb the negative effect that illegal immigration is having on the Panhandle county.
Advocates of illegal immigration have demanded the practice stop immediately because they say it intimidates aliens and is downright repugnant. The local representative of a nationally known civil rights group questioned sending officers to investigate what he called a “paper crime” in the first place.
But local authorities say that, like countless municipalities across the nation, illegal immigration is taking a toll on their community. In the absence of federal enforcement of immigration laws, Bay County Sheriff Frank McKeithen created his department’s task force to compensate for the federal government’s negligence.
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