Local Authorities May Be Required to Enforce Immigration Laws

By Geena Martinez
NewsWest 9

MIDLAND - Tough immigration laws, like the ones passed in Arizona, could make their way into Texas law books sometime in the future.

More than 40 new bills in the Texas legislature have law enforcement agencies on the fence about how and who should enforce immigration laws.

One of those proposed bills would require local authorities to ask a person's citizenship status, if they can't provide proper ID during normal traffic stops.

Some of those bills targeted at illegal aliens worry officials that illegal immigrants won't want to report crimes for fear of getting deported.

Midland Sheriff Gary Painter said something does need to be done, however, his department never goes after crime victims.

"We believe they need protection just like anyone else," Painter said.

But for those who do commit crimes.

"We do check their citizenship," Painter said. "We find out if they're here illegally and if they are then we call immigration."

Painter said illegal immigrants come through the jail on a weekly basis.

He agrees something needs to be done to stop illegal activity from spilling over our borders, even if that means picking up the slack for federal agents.

"We swear to uphold the constitution and laws of the United States and of the state of Texas," Painter said. "It doesn't matter. The obligation is there. We have to enforce the law."

"They're doing their job and I totally support the authorities for doing that," concerned citizen, Jason Salstrom said. "They have to make this area safer and if that's one way to do it, I'm all for it."

But others think it opens the door for profiling and they're not convinced it's the best thing.

"We have a lot of immigrants in this country who don't speak perfect English," concerned citizen, Erin Brunson said. "And that doesn't necessarily mean they're here illegally."

"These are women, children and men that are just looking for a better opportunity," concerned citizen, Phillip Hickman said. "If they're not bringing across illegal substances or bringing crime or they're not criminals to break any laws and they just want a new start then why do you stop them? I wouldn't hold nobody down so why hold your neighbor down?"

Sheriff Painter is president of the Sheriffs' Association of Texas and he said they're currently working through all the bills with legislators and he hopes they can come up with a bill that satisfies and protects all Texans.