DECEMBER 10, 2008
A Florida sheriff who enthusiastically signed up to participate in a federal program that trains local police to enforce immigration laws has dropped out because the government won’t keep its end of the deal.
The sheriff in Lee County, southwest Florida’s most populous with nearly half a million residents, enrolled his department in the highly touted partnership program more than a year ago. Under the arrangement U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) trains local law enforcement officers throughout the country to identify illegal immigrants for deportation.
Once illegal immigrants are arrested, local officers notify ICE to supposedly begin deportation proceedings. Instead, Lee County Sheriff Michael Scott says, the feds regularly stiff local police by seldom following through with removals.
That leaves jails overcrowded and often forces local authorities to eventually release the illegal aliens. ICE only responds to illegal immigrants in custody for serious crimes, the sheriff said, adding that the agency is “selective” in how it responds.
The sheriff noted that when his office received a tip a few years ago that illegal immigrants were working for the contractor building a new county jail, ICE repeatedly blew off the information. Federal agents reluctantly joined sheriff’s deputies to round up dozens of undocumented workers at the construction site.
This is hardly the first time that local law enforcement officials complain about getting the shaft from federal immigration authorities. In the last few months alone, three local police departments in different parts of the country claimed that ICE failed to act when contacted about detained illegal immigrants who then went on to commit atrocious crimes. The negligence resulted in six murders and a rape.
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