Law enforcement officials discuss illegal immigration

By Chelsea Wallis
Oct. 12, 2011 – Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier

Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, listens to North Carolina sheriffs testify about illegal immigration and crime. (Chelsea Wallis/MNS)

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Border states aren’t the only ones dealing with crimes connected to illegal immigration.

A panel of sheriffs representing counties in Iowa, Arizona, North Carolina and Maryland assembled Wednesday in the nation’s capital to ask Congress for help.

At issue is combating what some called “terrorism in our back yard.”

Issues varied from Sinaloa Cartel members with drugs and weapons in Alamance County, N.C., to increased gang activity in Sioux County.

Sheriffs from Iowa and North Carolina said the agricultural industry in their states attracts illegal workers.

The panel supported programs such as Secure Communities and 287 (g). Both allow federal immigration officials to work with local authorities to identify illegal immigrants.

The legislation sparked controversy, raising concerns some illegal immigrant communities would be afraid to report crimes for fear of deportation.

In September, federal immigration officials deported 2,900 criminal aliens in a seven-day, national campaign.

“My deputies go out every day,” said Chief Deputy Steve Henry of Pinal County, Ariz. “It’s like sending them to Iraq or Afghanistan. They have to wear heavy body armor. They have to wear helmets. They have to wear night vision.”

Henry believes the relationship between Immigration and Customs Enforcement and local agencies could be streamlined. Officers in Arizona work closely with ICE, but complying with regulations and conducting investigations are time-consuming.

The panel agreed more funding would help local counties deal with related crime.

Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, noted the United States is a nation of immigrants, but the fact is often “used to guilt us into walking away from the rules of law.”

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