State, local policies emerge on illegal immigrants
More illegal immigrants moving beyond the border states to follow jobs and a lack of federal immigration reform has some states and communities coming up with their own enforcement policies – written or not.
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The Alabama law, considered the toughest in the U.S., requires police to detain people who can't prove they are in the country legally and prohibits illegal immigrants from receiving government services.
In Arizona, a federal judge has blocked enforcement of a portion of the state's 2010 immigration enforcement law that required police, while enforcing other laws, to question people about their immigration status if officers suspect they are in the country illegally.
The laws have prompted protests and boycotts and legal challenges. Critics say they will lead to racial profiling.
States or communities that don't enforce immigration laws say they don't want local law enforcement tied up doing the work of the federal government. Advocates say it could also make communities less safe by deterring immigrants from reporting crimes out of fear of deportation.
"Local governments would prefer that it just be a federal issue that they don't have to come up with policies," said Sarahi Uribe, national campaign coordinator for the National Day Laborers Organizing Network.
But, she added, "The reality is that they just have no choice because immigration reform is not happening anytime soon."
Vermont's change comes as the federal government demands that states participate in a federal program aimed at identifying and deporting illegal immigrants.
Under the Secure Communities program, state and local law enforcement are required to send criminal suspects' fingerprints to the FBI, where they are run through a database to determine the person's immigration status.
The Department of Homeland Security says it's an information sharing program that is focused on criminal offenders.
Vaughan calls Vermont's state police policy one of the most restrictive on police in the country.
"Because most law enforcement professionals would not want to restrict what their officers can and cannot do that broadly. That's definitely a minority," she said.
One of the men in Vermont who was found by the Border Patrol to have been in this country illegally has voluntarily returned to Mexico. The other faces an immigration hearing in Boston. His lawyer did not return a phone call seeking comment.
Supporters of Vermont's new policy hope it will be adopted by local police and other states.
"If Arizona is going to go in one direction and Alabama in one direction, then our work really matters. You know if we're able to create a more just and sort of humane response to a sort of broken immigration system here, then it can have ripple effects," said Brendan O'Neill of the VT Migrant Farmworker Solidarity Project.