Illegal immigration is a continuing problem in the United States. Local and state law enforcement is well aware of the influx of illegal aliens living in Alabama but say they can't do anything about it.
The fact is plain and simple: local and state agencies cannot enforce federal immigration laws. That's frustrating to Houston county sheriff Andy Hughes who says Uncle Sam is understaffed and doesn't have the resources to combat the problem.
Sheriff Hughes has a simple standpoint when it comes to illegal immigration.
“If they're illegally immigrating, just like breaking any other laws, then I have no use for it,”
But he says there's nothing neither he, nor anyone else in the state can do about it.
“Under current Alabama law and under federal statute local authorities have no enforcement ability to enforce federal immigration laws,” said Sheriff Hughes.
Sheriff Hughes says recently, federal immigration agents came to town but failed to make a bust.
“We took them by the hand, we took them to a construction site where there were 10 undocumented workers who were in this country illegally working, and they slapped the sub-contractor on the hand and said ‘we're going to be watching you from now on’,” said Sheriff Hughes.
“They (illegal immigrants) live in constant fear,”
Rich Lopez says most illegal aliens aren't here to cause trouble; they're here to enrich their lives and have a positive impact on society.
“Latinos particularly want to come here and contribute,” said Lopez
But Hughes says a lot of crime can be traced back to people crossing the border, illegally.
“Drug trafficking, illegal aliens, terrorism, the list goes on and on of crimes that are going on because we're not sealing off our border,” commented Sheriff Hughes.
“We do have terrorism threats, we do have drug threats,” added Alabama U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions.
But Lopez argues, crime is everywhere.
“These criminals are resident in every culture that lives in our communities,”
Lopez believes most illegal aliens are good-standing people, but are afraid to make themselves known.
“We really, really want to put drug lords out of business. We want to put them in prison but in the majority of cases, people are afraid to step forward because they're going to get arrested and deported,” said Lopez.
In the meantime, all Sheriff Hughes can do is listen to citizen's concerns.
“Know that we're going to do whatever we can to combat illegal immigration here but know that our hands are tied,”
In the 2009 regular session, nine illegal immigration-related bills were introduced in the Alabama state senate. None passed.
But some lawmakers are planning on bringing them up in the next session.
At the federal level, President Obama signed a $600 million bill aimed at strengthening security along the U.S./Mexico border.
The White House says the new money will add 1,500 more personnel, all said to target drug smuggling.
In Friday’s final installment of illegal intrusion, we will examine the controversial immigration law in Arizona and attempt to answer if a similar law could be put in place here.