Path to Deportation Can Start With a Traffic Stop


Ruth Fremson/The New York Times
Henry Rosales Lopez, left, and Fredy Reyes are among the illegal immigrants in custody in Suffolk County, N.Y.

While lawmakers in Washington debate whether to forgive illegal
immigrants their trespasses, a small but increasing number of local and
state law enforcement officials are taking it upon themselves to pursue
deportation cases against people who are here illegally.

Ruth Fremson/The New York Times
The Rev. Orlando Cardona, center, leading a Mass in Spanish for
inmates, many of them illegal immigrants, at the Suffolk County jail.

In more than a dozen jurisdictions, officials have invoked a little-used 1996 federal law to seek special federal training in immigration enforcement for their officers.

other places, the local authorities are flagging some illegal
immigrants who are caught up in the criminal justice system, sometimes
for minor offenses, and are alerting immigration officials to their
illegal status so that they can be deported.

In Costa Mesa,
Calif., for example, in Orange County, the City Council last year shut
down a day laborer job center that had operated for 17 years, and this
year authorized its Police Department to begin training officers to
pursue illegal immigrants — a job previously left to federal agents.

Suffolk County, on Long Island, where a similar police training
proposal was met with angry protests in 2004, county officials have
quietly put a system in place that uses sheriff’s deputies to flag
illegal immigrants in the county jail population.

In Putnam
County, N.Y., about 50 miles north of Manhattan, eight illegal
immigrants who were playing soccer in a school ball field were arrested
on Jan. 9 for trespassing and held for the immigration authorities.

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