H-SANTA MARIA

May 2, 2012 10:30 PM by Ariel Wesler

Officials ease enforcement for some illegal immigrants

Federal immigration officials are easing up on illegal immigrants who commit minor traffic violations, and that includes DUIs.

The move reflects the Obama administration's recent efforts to crack down on high-risk or violent illegal immigrants as opposed to those with clean records.

Meanwhile, the US Supreme Court is still deciding whether to uphold Arizona's immigration law.

It requires police officers to check the immigration status of people they believe are in this country illegally.

Unlike Arizona, local law enforcement agencies we spoke with say they do not check immigration status during routine traffic stops. They simply look at the crime committed.

Santa Maria Police say their main priority is keeping the city safe, not checking citizenship.

"Police functions are to detect any traffic violators including the unlicensed and/or drunk driving. They are not to go out and check immigration status," said Lt. Rico Flores with the Santa Maria Police Department.

They leave that to the feds who recently announced they will not detain illegal immigrants involved in minor traffic violations if they have no previous criminal history. That includes DUIs.

"I wouldn't say because there's illegal immigrants in our city, that's the reason we have crime," Flores said. "Absolutely not!"

For local police here, the rules seem simple.

"You could be from Timbuktu. If you're breaking the law, we're going to arrest you," Flores said.

Unless you're only crime is being here illegally.

"I think the laws aren't being upheld like they should be," said Elise Gilford of Guadalupe. "Illegal aliens are having the advantages that our children should have."

Still, supporters say current practices have been landing too many people with clean records detention, people who are vital to our economy.

"We need to do everything we can to keep positive, productive people involved," said Kam Jacoby of Los Alamos.

While many criticize the federal government for not doing enough to protect the boarders, according the Pew Research Center, under President Obama, deportations have reached record levels.

The New York Times reports it costs about $23,000 to deport each person, and the U.S. has been deporting an average of 400,000 people each year since 2009.

The latest numbers show about six million unauthorized Mexican immigrants are living in the U.S.

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