55 agencies to enforce immigration laws

Associated Press / October 17, 2009

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WASHINGTON - The Obama administration has signed up 55 state and local law enforcement agencies to help enforce immigration laws, including an Arizona county sheriff under investigation for racial profiling, the Homeland Security Department announced yesterday.

Another 12 agreements have been approved and are awaiting local or state approval. The administration had previously suspended the program, which critics say was mismanaged and allowed racial profiling and discrimination. Before it was suspended, there had been 66 local and state agencies participating.

Many immigration and civil rights advocates continue to criticize the program. The Congressional Hispanic Caucus has asked Obama to end it.

But others say the program is needed to reduce illegal immigration. Many lawmakers, including the chairman of the House panel that approves the Homeland Security Department’s budget, have pressured ICE to deport more immigrant criminal offenders.

Four local and state law enforcement agencies decided against renewing their agreements and two withdrew their applications. They included the Framingham Police Department in Massachusetts, which pulled out because it said the federal government had urged the force to detain and deport immigrants more aggressively, and the chief feared that would erode trust in the community.