There are between 12 and 20 million illegal immigrants living in the United States at any given time and crime is rising in that population. Currently, local law enforcement officers cannot arrest illegal residents just for being illegal. It’s under federal law, not state. However, North Charleston Police Chief Jon Zumalt says even if they did have the power to do so, chances are, they wouldn’t be able to arrest them anyway.
“We don’t have the manpower or the capacity to do it is the first layer. The second layer is where would they be held until immigration could be processed and start working through it. The third and the most important thing for us, if the word gets out in the Hispanic community that we’re picking up illegals then they’re gonna hide from us. What’s happened over time is illegal immigrants have been robbed out on the streets and they’re cashing them things and then that’s going to continue,” says Zumalt.
North Charleston has a diverse population, with over 4% of its population Hispanic. Zumalt says he is noticing a trend:
“Well the trend I am seeing is they’ve gone from victims to perpetrators and that’s a trend that’s escalating,” says Zumalt.
And as the trend, and crime, seems to escalate, Zumalt waits for what’s next.
“I don’t know exactly where it’s going. I’m very interested in seeing this national debate continue and that we actually start taking some action to contain our borders is the first step, and then we start problem solving the situation that we are in. Those are the two steps, so I’m anxious to see if anything starts moving,” says Zumalt.
Right now, as the crime rate soars in the illegal immigration population, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, is the only agency that can arrest an illegal immigrant- unless that person commits another illegal crime.
Photo from City of North Charleston