Hannibal PD deals with immigration

(Hannibal, Mo.) Police officers in Hannibal have taken some heat after the suspect in two murders in the city over the weekend admitted he was in this country illegally. We've heard questions about why the police department isn't doing more to crack down on illegal aliens. KHQA's Jarod Wells talked to Captain Jim Hark with the Hannibal Police Department Wednesday. Hark says when it comes to situations like these, the police are the ones that are handcuffed.

32-year-old Manuel Cazares had all of the identification to prove he was in the country legally; a Tennessee driver's license, a Florida state ID and a social security card. There was no reason for a police officer to think he was here legally. In fact, questioning him about it could be against the law.

"For police to then ignore all those valid documents," said Captain Hark, "and then to further detain a person and start running them through the gamut of are they here legally or illegally, that itself is racially biased."

Basing a decision to check a person's legal status in the country solely on race is racial profiling. Hark says the federal government is very strict on any law enforcement taking part in any race based actions. When a person provides valid identification, that is where the research stops for local police; any more could result in civil penalties. Hark says the US Immigrations and Customs Enforcement and local law enforcement have good cooperation, but it is unreasonable for the police or the public to think an agent can respond to every immigration call.

"What the public needs to realize, if you do a little research on I.C.E., they have 2,000 agents to cover the United States. Thats 2,000 people to handle all immigration issues."

Hark says not only would it be illegal for police to investigate a person based solely on race, but it would be irresponsible. He says the Hannibal Police Department will continue to do its job to the fullest limit of its authority, but he also says it's important for the public to know there are limits when it comes to federal issues like immigration.

Captain Hark told Jarod that all the documents and identification Manuel Cazares gave police were valid and authentic. The next question for law enforcement is how illegal aliens get these forms of identification.