Photo image courtesy U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement
For months, groups who support and oppose immigration have railed against the Obama administration over immigration enforcement policies.

Folks on the left say that the Obama people haven’t kept up their campaign promises to overhaul the nation’s complicated immigration laws and instead have been too tough on deporting immigrants.

Those on the right hammer away at the administration, saying it isn’t doing enough to combat illegal immigration. Republicans have floated claims that Homeland Security Department bureaucrats have secret plans to provide amnesty to thousands of undocumented immigrants.

Rhetoric aside, immigration officials have reversed directions on a number of matters, which has led to “a climate of mistrust” of agencies like U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Washington Post reported.

The problem: “officials have been placed in the impossible position of enforcing laws that they themselves believe are unfair and outdated,” the Post reported.

Be it mistrust or frustration with Congress’ inaction on federal immigration laws, more state lawmakers introduced their own legislation to address the issue of illegal immigration. Whether the legislator is from a border state like Texas or thousands of miles away from the Southwest border in South Dakota, they are pushing a dizzying array of get-tough or stay-tough bills.

Many of the bills that have been introduced around the country are modeled after a controversial immigration law passed in Arizona, where more migrants in federal immigration courts are getting reprieves.

A proposed California initiative, modeled after Arizona’s law, needs to collect more than 433,000 signatures by April 21, 2011 to qualify for a state ballot in February or June of 2012.

The precursor to the Arizona law was a policy adopted in Prince William County in Virginia, which the Washington Post warns is a cautionary tale as the county has become a national symbol of intolerance. While the Justice Department has challenged the Arizona law, ICE has also been reluctant to give some local police in Georgia the authority to enforce federal immigration laws.

The agency is still doing enforcement, as ICE rounded up more than 200 criminal aliens, fugitives and previously deported immigrants in a three- and four-day “surges” around the country the week before Thanksgiving. Operations took place in New York, Colorado, Idaho , Georgia, Alabama, Maryland and Nevada.

“ICE will continue using its unique immigration authorities to identify and arrest those who present a threat to our community,” said Philip Miller, field office director for ICE ERO in New Orleans, said in a press release.

Felicia Skinner, the field office director in Atlanta, echoed the sentiment in another press release from the same day: “ICE uses its unique immigration authorities to identify and arrest those who present a threat to our community.”

Meanwhile, Democratic leadership in Congress continues to say it will push for a vote on the Dream Act, which would give a path to citizenship for thousands of young undocumented people who have attended U.S. college or served in the military, which The Economist argues just makes sense. But, similar bills have lingered in Congress for nearly a decade, leaving hundreds of thousands in limbo.

Young students aren’t the only ones in limbo. A former Ciudad Juarez Mexico police officer was waiting for an immigration judge in Dallas to decide on his asylum claim while two former confidential informants for ICE are still trying to secure legal status in the United States.

Not in limbo?: Country music icon Willie Nelson. After being arrested at a U.S. Border Patrol checkpoint for possession of marijuana — again — Nelson posted bond and was released back on the road — again.

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Andrew Becker is a reporter for Reveal, covering border, national and homeland security issues, as well as weapons and gun trafficking. He has focused on waste, fraud and abuse – with stories ranging from border corruption to the expanding use of drones and unmanned aerial vehicles, from the militarization of police to the intersection of politics and policy related to immigration, from terrorism to drug trafficking. Becker's reporting has appeared in The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, Newsweek/The Daily Beast and on National Public Radio and PBS/FRONTLINE, among others. He received a master's degree in journalism from UC Berkeley. Becker is based in Reveal's Emeryville, California, office.