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Lincoln police inadvertently helping immigration officials
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Lincoln police inadvertently helping immigration officials

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Tom Casady
Lincoln Police Chief Tom Casady (The Chief's Corner blog)

Lincoln's police chief says it's not his job to help federal authorities enforce immigration laws.

But -- whether Tom Casady likes it or not -- that's what's happening.

In May, Lincoln police arrested a 43-year-old immigrant from El Salvador who allegedly tried to open a bank account using a relative's ID. They sent her fingerprints to a federal database, which is standard procedure whenever someone's booked into jail, Casady told a group of civil rights leaders Thursday.

This time, it led to a run-in with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and now the woman faces federal charges for allegedly overstaying her visa.

Lincoln's Multicultural Advisory Committee asked for a meeting with Casady to discuss how the woman's arrest led to the charge.

The chief told them it was never his intent to see her threatened with deportation. Officers arrested her because of the fake ID, he said, not her immigration status.

"She appears to be a law-abiding citizen that's been here for quite some time," he said.

On the other hand, Casady said, his department has found it difficult to get federal authorities to take action against a pair of suspected illegal immigrants who've had repeated run-ins with local police.

During Thursday's meeting, the chief and committee members said they're worried about the possibility of Nebraska passing a law requiring local police to enforce immigration law. Such a law is set to go into effect in Arizona next Thursday.

Casady said such a law would make immigrants here fear police, and thus less willing to report violent or other serious crimes.

"I have absolutely no interest at all in helping the federal government do their job," he said.

It's been standard procedure to fingerprint people taken to jail since at least the 1940s, and advances in technology have made sharing the prints easier, Casady said after the meeting.

The department has no plans to stop sharing prints, he said.

"I think that would be a very bad idea."

Reach Zach Pluhacek at 402-473-7234 or zpluhacek@journalstar.com.

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