Police, immigrants win with new practice

A recent, informal partnership between the Immigration and Naturalization Service and the sheriff’s departments in Hennepin and Ramsey counties is expected to be followed nationwide. The partnership, which has gradually refocused the routine for detaining illegal immigrants in the Twin Cities, will make lives easier for police authorities and legal immigrants.
Traditionally, immigration agents nationwide have used workplace raids on restaurants, meatpacking plants and various other blue collar businesses to catch illegal immigrants. Since November, however, INS officials have used daily checks of jail rosters in Hennepin and Ramsey counties as their primary method for tracking illegal residents. Jail roster checks were rarely done before November. In the St. Paul district, which covers Minnesota and the Dakotas, more than 400 illegal immigrants have been detained in the last three months, none of whom were caught in workplace raids. This represents a 30 percent increase from the same period last year.
Although to some it might be sad to see more people deported under the new system, it should be applauded that the emphasis is on catching illegal immigrants who pose the largest threats to society. Deporting illegal residents from jails will also save taxpayers’ money spent on inmate maintenance. The shift away from workplace raids should make legal immigrants — especially of minority ethnicities — feel more welcome, as well.
Despite the greatly lessened possibility of legal immigrants being wrongly accused of illegal residency, many community organizations and religious groups such as Interfaith Action say immigrants are still scared, fearing interaction of any kind with police. We are not so sure this fear is a bad thing. After all, the only immigrants who should fear interaction with the police are those who are illegally living here — those who have broken the law. Any person who is breaking the law should fear interaction with police. Those who are legally here and have broken no laws should fear nothing. Indeed, they should welcome the enforcement of laws that maintain the country that attracted them initially.
It must be noted that police are not discriminating against minorities when they question their residency and ask for proper identification; they are simply doing their job. However, police must note that the majority of illegal immigrants detained in the St. Paul district are Canadian — 39 percent. Hence, minorities might stand out more in appearance but should not be targeted.
Who could blame most immigrants for wanting to come to the United States? But must they come illegally? The United States naturalizes more people each year than any other nation. Legal immigration to the United States is easier than many aspiring immigrants think. All illegal immigrants should be detained, but immigration agents deserve praise for going after the more troublesome ones instead of just the first ones in sight. Workplace raids do not guarantee results and inevitably bring harm and fear among innocent people. The INS partnership with Hennepin and Ramsey counties was modeled after a well-established program in San Diego and should be encouraged nationwide.