OPD: Local law enforcement not looking for illegal immigrants

Published 2:00 am Sunday, February 26, 2017


Oxford Police Chief Joey East said recent rumors that his officers were going around to homes and businesses looking for illegal immigrants are completely false.

However, it’s possible Immigration and Custom Enforcement agents might be, he said recently.

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East believes the rumors started last weekend when a young Hispanic man was arrested after being pulled over for a traffic violation.

“He had no identification, no license, no insurance,” East said. “He was arrested and taken to the Lafayette County Detention Center to make bond. His passenger also had no identification, but he was allowed to leave. He hadn’t broken any laws.”

Once at the detention center, jailers discovered he was in the country illegally and notified ICE as they are required to do. Within a few hours, ICE representatives picked him up for deportation.

ICE responding

The only thing that has changed, East said, is the response of ICE.

“Back 10 years ago, before (President Barack) Obama came into office, if you were here illegally and committed a crime, you were picked up and ICE would come in, see the charge and put a hold on them,” East said. “Then it got to where they had to be convicted of a crime. Toward the last couple years of Obama’s administration, if they committed a crime, the chances of them being deported were slim.”

East said it is not the OPD’s job to go door-to-door looking for illegal immigrants.

“We’re not doing that,” he said. “We’re not coming to the schools to get children. Not coming to their jobs. I’m not saying Immigration won’t, but OPD is doing business as usual. But if you’re here illegally and commit a crime, it’s likely you will be deported now.”

East said rumors are usually formed from fear.

“People are scared,” he said.

Lafayette County Sheriff’s Department Chief Deputy Scott Mills said he hasn’t heard any rumors being tossed around about deputies arresting illegal immigrants, but also said the sheriff’s department is not out looking for them.

“Absolutely not,” he said. “When anyone is arrested, the jailers have to book them in and get their identification. Through that process, if they don’t have any or only a foreign driver’s license, we are obligated to call ICE and notify them. It’s always been up to the federal government if they place a hold and it’s set by the administration’s policy at that time.”

ICE has not conducted any recent “raids” in Lafayette County; however federal authorities raided several restaurants in Mississippi last week as part of an immigration check.

Agents with ICE executed criminal search warrants at eight Asian restaurants Wednesday morning. It was unclear how many people were detained.

Agency spokesman Thomas Byrd told The Clarion-Ledger the majority of restaurants affected were part of the Ichiban chain. The raids occurred in Jackson, Flowood, Pearl and Meridian. A China Buffet in Pearl was also a target of the search warrants.

Bill Chandler with Mississippi Immigrants Rights Alliance says it’s his understanding the raids were targeting those “not in status” or undocumented workers who may be in Mississippi on expired visas.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.