States Take New Tack on Illegal Immigration


Dan Anderson for The New York Times

“We’re Mexican — they don’t want us here.” ERIKA BARRAGAN, the wife of one of 23 people scheduled to be deported after police raids.

MILTON, Fla. — Three months after the local police inspected more than a dozen businesses searching for illegal immigrants using stolen Social Security numbers, this community in the Florida Panhandle has become more law-abiding, emptier and whiter.

Getting Tough

Crackdown in Florida

This is the first article in a series that explores efforts by government and others to compel illegal immigrants to leave the United States.

Dan Anderson for The New York Times

“What we’re victims of is a system that’s broken.” JOHN DAVY, a co-owner of Panhandle Growers, where 13 workers were detained.

Many of the Hispanic immigrants who came in 2004 to help rebuild after Hurricane Ivan have either fled or gone into hiding. Churches with services in Spanish are half-empty. Businesses are struggling to find workers. And for Hispanic citizens with roots here — the foremen and entrepreneurs who received visits from the police — the losses are especially profound.

“It was very hard because the community is very small, and to see people who came to eat here all the time then come and close the business,” said Geronimo Barragan, who owns two branches of La Hacienda, Mexican restaurants where the police arrested 10 employees.

“I don’t blame them,” Mr. Barragan added. “It’s just that it hurts.”

Sheriff Wendell Hall of Santa Rosa County, who led the effort, said the arrests were for violations of state identity theft laws. But he also seemed proud to have found a way around rules allowing only the federal government to enforce immigration laws. In his office, the sheriff displayed a framed editorial cartoon that showed Daniel Boone admiring his arrest of at least 27 illegal workers.

His approach is increasingly common. Last month, 260 illegal immigrants in Iowa were sentenced to five months in prison for violations of federal identity theft laws.

At the same time, in the last year, local police departments from coast to coast have rounded up hundreds of immigrants for nonviolent, often minor, crimes, like fishing without a license in Georgia, with the end result being deportation.



One response to “States Take New Tack on Illegal Immigration

  1. I was going to post this one, but you are currently editing it! Bellygod did good. Kneegod and I are going to have some words. You are right, it’s going to be a great week! TQ LQ, TM

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