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  • Fla. police unit can now enforce immigration law

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  • An excerpt from the unanimous ruling in the Schiavo case
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    Fla. police unit can now enforce immigration law

    ©Associated Press
    June 7, 2002

    TALLAHASSEE -- Police officers in a state antiterrorism unit will have the power to enforce immigration law under a pilot program created with the federal government, the state said Thursday.

    The 35 members of the state's Domestic Security Task Force will not conduct routine immigration enforcement, such as checking someone's immigration status, but could detain a suspected terrorist for violating immigration laws.

    "It's targeted only to terrorist investigations -- not checking green cards and work camps," said Tim Moore, commissioner for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

    Florida is the first state in the program, and it could be expanded to other states if it's successful, Moore said. The agreement should be signed in about a week.

    A spokesman for the federal Immigration and Naturalization Service did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

    The FDLE has met with leaders in immigrant communities to stress that the officers will not target people just for immigration violations. Explanatory pamphlets were printed in English, Spanish, French, Creole and Arabic.

    "We certainly are concerned about racial profiling and officers abusing their power," said Cheryl Little, executive director of the Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center in Miami. "Post 9/11, there's a sense among the immigrant community that INS and local police have carte blanche to do whatever they want."

    Gov. Jeb Bush, however, said he is comfortable with the program because it is limited to just a few officers already assigned to domestic security.

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