In July of 2007, a new immigration unit of the Colorado State Patrol became operational. Now, a year later, officials say they're making progress in their mission to curb what many are calling a growing problem.
It's another day at the office for Master Trooper Mike Jamison as he rides around in his patrol car looking for drivers who choose not to follow the law. But unlike most state troopers, Jamison is able to do more than just write tickets.
"I've been doing this for seventeen years and I needed something new and exciting," said Jamison. "With this unit, we're setting precedents and policies."
Jamison is one of the 22 state troopers on CSP's immigration unit. The group spent five weeks training with Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials and were sworn in as deputized federal agents in May of 2007.
The unit was created to help ICE agents reduce human smuggling and trafficking along Colorado highways.
"It's kind of like a team thing," said Jamison. "It works really good."
Unlike ICE agents, the troopers do not go looking for illegal immigrants or make raids and busts. They can take illegal immigrants into custody only after a driver has been pulled over for a routine stop first and ICE has room for them in their facilities.
"You can't just stop them because you suspect them as a load of illegals," said Jamison. "You have to have a valid stop."
Even with their limited authority, the troopers say they're making progress. From July 2007 to July 2008, the CSP unit has processed 782 illegal immigrants, arrested 42 people for human smuggling, filed 33 state human smuggling cases, and filed 7 federal human smuggling cases.
"Between nineteen troopers and three sergeants, that's good," said Jamison.
Troopers say, however, only time will tell how they're actually doing.
"You're not going to be able to tell right away, until we get enough time doing this to see if we're actually making a difference," said Jamison.
But troopers say the past year has been a huge step in the right direction.
Two troopers in the 22 member unit are in Mesa County and three are in Garfield County.