DENVER (Associated Press) -- A Colorado lawmaker wants to give
local and state police the power to enforce
immigration laws to help federal authorities in the
aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, but some
police chiefs have reservations.
"This is a specific attempt to do our part as a
state in helping the (Immigration and Naturalization
Service) deal with issues that have come up since
9/11," said Rep. Don Lee, R-Littleton, the bill's
The House is scheduled to debate the bill this
Immigration law enforcement has come under
increased scrutiny since the Sept. 11 terrorist
attacks. Lee and others who support his proposal say
the INS does not have the staff to detain the
estimated 8 million immigrants now in the United
Some Colorado police chiefs said their departments
do not have the resources or training to enforce
"We have enough on our plates right now. It's not
as if we're out looking for extra things to do,"
Glenwood Springs Chief Terry Wilson said.
Luis Velez, acting chief in Colorado Springs, said
immigration law enforcement requires different
procedures and training than criminal law.
"Police officers are trained from Day 1 that to
make an arrest they must have a legal standard. That
legal standard is probable cause," he said.
"The problem is, you'll have police who are trained
to deal with criminals instead of dealing with people
who are in effect status offenders," he said.
Phoenix immigration lawyer Roxanna Bacon concurred.
"Immigration law is very, very complicated. No local
policeman has training at all in civil immigration
law," she said.
Denver chief Gerry Whitman said adding immigration
law to officers' duties could make it hard to win the
trust of residents in some neighborhoods.
"Communication is big in inner-city neighborhoods
and the underpinning of that is trust," Whitman
"If a victim thinks they're going to be a suspect
(in an immigration violation), they're not going to
call us, and that's just going to separate us even
further," he said.
Lee the bill would not require police to enforce
immigration law but give them the authority to do