State Police Seek Power to Arrest Illegal Immigrants

LITTLE ROCK, AR - The Arkansas State Police has sent a letter to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement asking its troopers be able to arrest suspected illegal immigrants.

State Police Director Colonel Winford Phillips told a legislative hearing the state police sent the letter last week.  The move comes more than two years after the Legislature voted to authorize state police graduates for an eight-week immigration and customs enforcement course to make the arrests during interstate highway traffic stops.

Phillips did not say what caused him to send the letter.  After the hearing today, a state police spokesman said all questions to the director would be answered later.

Former state police director Steve Dozier opposed the measure when it was passed, saying troopers would be spread even more thinly across the state with the additional responsiblity.

During today's legislative hearing on the cost of illegal immigration, Phillips said troopers remain constrained by the lack of manpower in federal immigration enforcement.  During nights and weekends, Phillips says troopers must call the federal agency's New Orleans office for guidance on what to do with suspected illegal immigrations.

Most of the time, Phillips says the federal agents told troopers to release the suspects after getting their names.

A spokesman for Governor Beebe says the governor had talked with Phillips about illegal immigration, but did not have an immediate comment.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)