Illegal immigration: enforcing the law, limited by the law

Wednesday night, the WAFF 48 Investigators unveiled the impact of immigration, specifically illegal immigration, to North Alabama communities. Thursday night, the efforts to enforce the law for *all* citizens and the limitations that local law enforcement face *because* of the law.

There are federal, state and local laws and immigration falls under federal reign. Local authorities can't address laws based on illegal status alone, but they can enforce and pass laws that impact everyone.

"In 2000, when we went to precincts, we were running about 8,000 calls for service a month. Now we're running about 17,000 calls for service a month. Is a percentage due to an increase in the Hispanic population? Yes it is," said Rex Reynolds, Director of Public Safety for Huntsville.

It's a population that's three-fourths illegal in Huntsville. A group local residents have singled out for what's proven to be a grave danger; reckless driving, wrecks that cost citizens and the insured thousands of dollars, but because of state law, often allow those with no license, no insurance, to oftentimes drive away with no repercussions. Huntsville leaders say those days are numbered.

"I have three here on my desk, ordinances where we will target those who do not have Alabama drivers licenses and don't have the proper insurance, to where we take that car off the street then it takes the identification and proof of ownership to get that vehicle back. I suggest it's not racial profiling, it's not targeting, it's simply responding to the huge increase in a number of Hispanic drivers in the Huntsville-Madison county area," he said.

A similar ordinance was passed in Athens last month. Capt. Marty Bruce says of the 1,678 tickets written for a suspended, revoked or no license at all, 50% were illegal immigrants, and 50% were citizens.

"It's gong to get to be expensive to get a ticket for no drivers license or suspended or revoked because not only will you have to pay the ticket you'll also pay the wrecker fees, storage fees," said Bruce.

In 2005, Huntsville Police wrote more than 27,000 traffic citations. In 2006, more than 37,000 and about 1,400 Hispanics were arraigned in court. And to date, 58 illegals have been deported.