---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Tom McCasland
Date: Fri, Oct 29, 2010 at 12:24 PM
Subject: DPS kept track of contacts with illegal immigrants
Agency ends 2-year study amid questions
To: Katharine Bacon
DPS kept track of contacts with illegal immigrants Agency
ends 2-year study amid questions THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS
August 13, 2007 Monday
Copyright 2007 THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS
THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS
August 13, 2007 Monday
NEWS; Pg. 1A
kept track of contacts with illegal
immigrants Agency ends 2-year study amid questions
KATIE FAIRBANK, Staff Writer email@example.com
The Department of Public Safety has for two years been quietly tracking
how often state troopers come into
contact with illegal
after receiving questions from The Dallas Morning News, the
agency said the study would be discontinued.
Critics allege that some troopers were requiring Hispanic
drivers and passengers to show Social Security numbers or immigration
papers during traffic stops to
gather data for the study.
The Highway Patrol Division began keeping its informal statewide
tallies in June 2005, just as the immigration
issue boiled over nationally. The regional reports were
compiled, totaled and turned over to the Highway Patrol chief
advocates say they don't see
how the DPS
could have gathered the
information legally. Under Texas
sworn officers with no special immigration
training have no authority to make arrests for civil immigration
violations. Being an illegal
immigrant is not itself a criminal act. Instead, most illegal
immigrants are guilty of a federal
civil offense known as "unlawful presence."
State troopers either violated the law by asking about immigration status
, "which they're not
supposed to be doing, or they're racially profiling based on the
way somebody looks," said Luis Figueroa, a San Antonio attorney
with the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund.
The original intent of the study was to get an idea of the
according to the DPS
. The reports have
not been publicized and were discovered through an open records
request by the News.
"The perception was that the contacts with illegal
immigrants were increasing, but there was no record baseline
available," Tom Vinger, a DPS
spokesman, said last week.
In a written statement, Mr. Vinger said that the "gathering of
this data was designed to be a temporary snapshot of the
situation. This has been accomplished and the numbers are
inconclusive. DPS management has made the decision to discontinue
the gathering of this information."
He would not say who in management first ordered the study, or
who ordered it to end. He also did not give details on why the
state police were interested in the information or how the
information would ever be used.
Under the DPS
documented the number of stops that involved illegal
immigrants; the number of them released with no action; the
number of them released to immigration
authorities; and the number jailed. The study showed that the
total number of contacts trended down slightly, while the number
of those people jailed or turned over to immigration
officials stayed fairly constant. The DPS
said officers encountered nearly 49,500 illegal
immigrants during the two years.
Mr. Vinger declined to speculate how officers determined whether
someone was an illegal
were no specific rules under the informal study, he said.
The determination of immigration status
is left to federal authorities, and racial profiling is against
policies, he said. "These reports
don't change that fact," he said. "I wouldn't read too much into
these numbers. It's an unscientific gathering of information."
Fernando Garcia, executive director of the Border Network for
Human Rights in El Paso, alleged that some DPS
officers have been asking Hispanic drivers for Social Security
numbers or immigration
determine immigration status
"We're receiving about 10 reports a month where state troopers
are stopping people for minor traffic violations and then [they]
do this," he said. "They're not only keeping track of it, but in
our opinion, they are enforcing federal immigration
law. There is no policy regarding that, and they are not trained
to do that. We believe it is wrong."
If people can't produce papers proving they are legally in the
U.S., they are then held for immigration
officials, he said.
suspicious about why the DPS
the reports and how troopers determined who is illegally in the
country, Mr. Garcia said.
"At this point, it is very difficult to believe that they need
the information - especially right now in this anti-immigrant
climate," he said. "There is concern about this. They are
sending their own message to our community that the function of
is enforcing immigration
Even though the DPS
says the study is
over, the legal defense and educational fund would be interested
to know why it began, how it was executed and why it was
stopped, Mr. Figueroa said.
"We're concerned that they will pick it up again at a later
point," he said.
The study's results weren't regularly provided outside DPS
, although a couple of legislators asked
for details, according to the DPS
Katherine Cesinger, a spokeswoman for Gov. Rick
said that the governor's office was not aware of
the study and had never requested copies of the results. But she
added that any time law enforcement officials investigating a
crime come into contact with someone believed to be here
illegally, that person should be referred to immigration
"I'm not saying [state troopers] should be asking this, but if
this and then do
nothing about it, it doesn't measure up," Ms. Cesinger said the
day before DPS
decided to halt the
Keeping track of contacts with illegal
immigrants is new for local law enforcement divisions. When it
does occur, observers say the data is usually kept under wraps
to avoid the intense debate that can follow the issue.
"Neither the feds [nor] most of the states say they track. They
don't want to know or they're reluctant to give the information
out," said Mark Krikorian, executive director for the Center for
Studies, a conservative
think tank. "We've found it extraordinarily difficult to get
information out of anybody."
The study by Texas
troopers was similar
to how the Arizona Department of Public Safety records
encounters between state police and illegal
"This has been an enormous issue in Arizona for several years
now. That's why we started collecting that data," said Bart
Graves, a spokesman for the Arizona DPS
which has gathered numbers since 2003 and shares the results
with other law enforcement agencies.
"It helps make the case for more federal assistance," he said.
"It shows the huge problem in Arizona."
State police in New Mexico and California do not track them,
officials with those departments say. They and other law
enforcement divisions say they don't do so because crime victims
and witnesses could become afraid to speak up in fear of being
turned over to immigration
"We've encouraged law enforcement not be involved in immigration
," said Mr. Figueroa with the
legal defense and educational fund. "In the past, they tried to
keep their distance for fear of losing hard-earned trust in the
communities they protect."
Today, law enforcement is becoming far more involved. For
instance, police and sheriff's departments participated in
hunting down cross-border criminals during some statewide
investigations, including one last year known as "Operation
officials set up
"deportation and removal" sites during the multi-department
Also, many jails today have introduced policies in which
officers inform federal authorities about people they believe
are here illegally. This has been done, in part, to get federal
funds that can help defray costs of incarcerating illegal
immigrants. "The blurring of the
lines is getting much greater as this issue gets more
controversial," Mr. Figueroa said.
"We believe there should be a clear division between the
enforcement of immigration
federal and state," he said "State and local should only be
involved in the enforcement of criminal activities. The majority
of immigrants have not committed criminal activities; they've
only violated the civil provisions of immigration
GRAPH(S): (TOM SETZER/Staff Artist) KEEPING TABS
Policy & Research
Bill White for Texas