El Paso Rejects Immigration Enforcement by Local Police

Like Butler County, Ohio Sheriff Richard K. Jones — who has been running a freelance anti-immigrant dragnet out of his office — El Paso County, Texas Sheriff Leo Samaniego wants to take federal immigration law into his own hands. Earlier this summer, Samaniego launched “Operation Linebacker,” sending his deputies out at roadblocks to ask travelers for proof of citizenship.

While Samaniego suspended the project (a “temporary” suspension) after a lawsuit and complaints from civil rights groups, the sheriff has continued to push the idea that local police should act as federal immigration enforcement officers. Last week, Samaniego appeared before an immigration hearing held by the House Republicans in El Paso, where he expressed his desire to arrest undocumented immigrants.

Now, in reaction to Samaniego’s freelance efforts and their effect on community safety, El Paso County has approved a resolution stating that county employees “should not ask about the immigration status of crime victims, witnesses or people seeking help,” according to El Paso Times.

While many law enforcement officers – including El Paso’s police chief, Richard Wiles – recognize that having a population afraid to talk to police will result in unsolved crimes, County Commission Dan Haggerty, the sole vote against the measure, said that that’s the way it should be:

“Our communities are very afraid of calling the police. When someone from your family is here undocumented and they call the sheriff for domestic violence, they know they will be asked immigration status and they would rather not call,” [Border Network for Human Rights coordinator Betty] Camargo said.

As an illegal in this country, you should be afraid to call law enforcement agencies,” Haggerty said.

Samaniego emphasized that he considers the county’s resolution “non binding.”