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Law enforcement split on potential Florida immigration laws

Several anti-immigration bills have been proposed in Florida. State Representative William Snyder is proposing a bill that would require Florida law enforcement officers to check the immigration status of anyone under investigation. The bill would require local law enforcement to transfer illegal immigrants to a federal detention center for possible deportation/removal proceedings.

State Senator Mike Bennett has offered a measure to allow local police to check an individual's immigration status during a traffic stop in cases where the officer has a reason to suspect an individual is in the country illegally. Some sheriffs have expressed concerns over the measures. Others say the measures would smooth relations between local law enforcement and Federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials.

Many Florida Counties have slashed their budgets during the economic downturn. St. Lucie County Sheriff Ken Mascara reportedly cut $4.3 million from his budget. Martin County Sheriff Bob Crowder cut $1.4 million from the budget.

Deryl Loar in Indian River County dropped $2 million from the Sheriff's Department budget. Loar says law enforcement is "continuing having to do more with less." Loar

reportedly has expressed concerns over the potential for an Arizona style anti-immigration bill passing in Florida.

Crowder reportedly also has concerns, but not just based upon budgets. Crowder says he does not want to see people "afraid to report crimes for fear they would be deported. He says law enforcement needs to do their job "with no political dogma attached."

However, the sentiment is not universal among Florida law enforcement. Collier County Sheriff's Office Commander Mike Williams does not see an extra burden that a potential bill would impose upon local law enforcement. He says there is "nothing burdensome about contacting ICE and notifying then that an illegal immigrant is in your jail."

When local law enforcement notifies ICE of a potential undocumented person in a local jail, ICE places a 48-hour "hold" on the person to provide time for ICE to investigate the person's immigration status. ICE says agents rank cases based upon the seriousness of the person's alleged crime. Priority is given to serious offenses, such as allegations of murder, rape drug trafficking and crimes against children.

Source: TCPalm, "Local sheriffs have problems with proposed immigration bills," Keona Gardner 24 Feb 2011

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