Inmates’ Legal Immigration Status to Be Checked
By: Gerri L. Elder
In the absence of any new federal immigration reform laws, federal immigration officials are relying more and more on cooperation nationwide from local police departments, state officials and prison systems. Many news reports over the last year indicate that they are receiving help with immigration law enforcement from many sources.
The Associated Press recently reported that the city of Mesa, Arizona is jumping on the immigration law enforcement bandwagon and has reached an agreement with federal immigration officials to check and report the immigration status of inmates who are booked into the city jail. Some of the city’s detention officers may also receive special immigration training in order to assist federal immigration authorities more effectively.
The Mesa Police Department wants 10 detention officers to receive the special federal training on immigration law enforcement so that the city can assess the legal status of immigrants in Mesa police custody. The federal training will help speed up the deportation of illegal immigrants who have committed crimes after they have served the jail time for state violations.
The mayor of Mesa says that the city has a long way to go before being granted the federal funding to train the detention officers, but it has applied with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for a stopgap program that will yield the same results.
Mesa detention officers currently question prisoners about their immigration status. Any immigrants in custody who admit that they are in the United States illegally may be reported to ICE for further action, often without first speaking to a criminal defense attorney. Any prisoners who are transferred to Maricopa County jails have their immigration status checked there. When the new arrangement between Mesa and federal immigration officials takes effect, any immigrant in custody in Mesa who is suspected to be in the country illegally can be reported to ICE so that immigration authorities can check their immigration status.
Federal immigration officials can’t keep up with the number of training requests that they are receiving from police departments and local jails across the country as more localities wish to take a more active approach in dealing with illegal immigration. Mesa is currently about 70th on the waiting list for federal immigration training.
In the meantime, Mesa police can request that ICE become more involved in running checks on prisoners who are suspected illegal immigrants.