Following up on recent incidents in Missouri where illegal immigrants were arrested but not detained, U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill, along with State Senator Kevin Engler (R-03) and representatives from U.S. Representative Joanne Emerson (R-MO)'s office, spoke yesterday with officials from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) about how to improve the coordination between federal and local law enforcement officials. The call resulted from an ongoing issue that arose in St. Francois County in early February. Following a raid in Farmington, MO, the county sheriff reported that ICE officials instructed him to release 13 of the 14 men he had found working illegally on a local construction site.
"We need to make sure that we have better coordination between immigration authorities and local officials so illegal immigrants and the employers who knowingly hire them face real consequences," McCaskill said. "With the difficult economic situation we're facing, people in Missouri are frustrated because they feel like illegal immigrants are taking their jobs and nothing's being done about it."
Often local sheriffs and police are unsure of how to proceed when they receive information about the hiring of undocumented workers. McCaskill, who has been following this case closely, asked ICE officials to improve communication, training, and outreach with local law enforcement so that they know more about the proper protocol. She also expressed frustration that no attempt was made to penalize the employer for hiring undocumented workers.
McCaskill has repeatedly challenged both the Bush and Obama administrations to strengthen employer enforcement programs. She believes jobs are the magnet bringing people into this country and that stricter programs are the key to deterring people from entering the country illegally and protecting the jobs of those who play by the rules.
At the conclusion of the call, ICE officials agreed to provide training for Missouri law enforcement to outline what they can and cannot do when it comes to detaining illegal immigrants and set forth a protocol for local officials to follow when they do investigate reports of undocumented workers. McCaskill's office, along with Emerson's and Engler's, pledged to assist ICE in contacting local law enforcement organizations to set up training sessions.