While many immigration advocates believe some states are giving their local law enforcement too much power in detaining individuals, the news of multiple immigration officer impersonators brings the arguments of immigration reform to another level.
In Orem, Utah, Mark Vreeland was recently charged with four days of work diversion at a local county jail for impersonating an immigration officer, according to The Salt Lake Tribune.
Vreeland, 59, who describes himself as an activist, chased down Brigham Young University student Alcides Souza after he saw Souza run a stop sign. Vreeland said he was so scared during the “interaction” with the student he chased down that he almost reached for his gun, and told Souza he was a cop as he interrogated the student over his immigration status. While speaking with Souza, Vreeland wore a hat that said “police” and “ICE,” as in Immigration Customs Enforcement. Vreeland even went so far as to order Souza to get out of his vechicle with his hands up in the air.
In addition to his four days in jail, Vreeland will have to serve a year’s probation and take a course on how to make better decisions in the community.
Souza is a student from Brazil who is studying at BYU on a valid U.S. student visa. Since the incident, which occurred in June 2011, Souza says he has felt unsafe in Orem, and is constantly, “looking over [his] shoulder,” the news source reported.
Unfortunately, this is not the first case of individuals pretending to be law enforcement officials in order to take advantage of residents they suspect to be illegal immigrants. According to ABC affiliate KOCO, two individuals in Oklahoma City repeatedly pulled Hispanic residents over in 2009, often forcing them out of their vehicles and taking their money. One individual lost $550 from the local scam artists.