Jefferson City, Mo. Ten state troopers completed special immigration training Friday, allowing the officers to start enforcing federal immigration laws in Missouri.
Six troopers - two each from Kansas City, Springfield and St. Louis - will be used to speed up processing after traffic stops, and the other four will be assigned to casinos in Kansas City and St. Louis. Their training at a federal police training center in Charleston, S.C., began last month.
Even without immigration training, Missouri police can use a federal database maintained in Vermont to check the immigration status of a stopped motorist. But that means waiting for federal immigration authorities to take custody of an illegal immigrant and begin the deportation procedures.
Now, a state trooper will be able to contact one of the specially trained officers to take custody of an illegal immigrant and start paperwork to begin deportation procedures.
State immigration legislation passed this year and recently signed by Gov. Matt Blunt requires the Missouri State Highway Patrol to seek the federal immigration training whenever there is enough money to pay for it. Federal immigration authorities pay for only the training sessions, with the state responsible for everything else, such as the officers' salaries and travel expenses.
But immigration advocates, and even some of the nation's police chiefs, have questioned the wisdom of using police officers to enforce federal immigration laws. They fear that it could make illegal immigrants less likely to report crimes and cooperate with police while stretching local resources.