Friday, February 18, 2011

ICE insisting on local law involvement in tackling criminal illegals

After months of internal wrangling and confusion over an ambitious nationwide program allowing state and local police agencies to identify immigrants with criminal records, Obama administration immigration officials have decided to take a hard line against communities that try to delay or cancel their participation in the program, according to documents made public late Wednesday.

The program, Secure Communities, was initiated in late 2008 and is a centerpiece of the Obama administration’s strategy for enforcing immigration laws. The documents include e-mails and other materials showing deliberations among officials of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which runs the program.

The documents show that well into the second year of the program, as officials were moving forcefully to extend it to hundreds of law enforcement agencies across the country, the officials remained deeply confused over whether state and local governments could decline to join it. The internal discussions intensified as cities and states — including Arlington County, Va., San Francisco, Santa Clara County, Calif., Washington, and the states of Colorado, New York, Oregon and Washington — were considering whether to opt out.

But late last year, the documents show, officials from ICE, as the federal agency is known, reaffirmed its policy that every local jurisdiction in the country would be required to join the program by 2013. The officials developed a plan to isolate and pressure communities that did not want to participate.

One document, dated Jan. 2, 2011, suggests a “tactical approach to sensitive jurisdictions” for local immigration officers working to expand the program. It recommends that they bring nearby communities into the program, to create a “ring” around the “resistant site.”

The Secure Communities program connects the state and local police to Department of Homeland Security databases, allowing them to use fingerprints to check the immigration history, as well as the criminal record, of anyone booked after arrest. If a fingerprint match shows that the suspect is subject to deportation, both the immigration agency and the police are notified. As of this week, the program had been activated in 1,049 local law enforcement agencies in 39 states.

Agency officials said the program has led to the deportation of about 58,300 immigrants with criminal convictions since it was started in 2008.

Immigrant advocacy groups strongly oppose the program, saying it has led to deportations of thousands of illegal immigrants who had no criminal records, separating established families. Immigrants’ groups have held protests to dissuade local governments from signing on.

About 15,000 pages of agency documents were released through a Freedom of Information Act request by the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, the Center for Constitutional Rights and immigration lawyers at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in New York. The Associated Press obtained the documents separately and reported on them on Wednesday.

Several dozen documents were culled for release by the groups, which oppose the Secure Communities program.

Sarahi Uribe of the laborers’ group accused the agency of misleading communities by sending mixed signals about whether they could opt out of the program. “The amount of dishonesty revealed in this process would make anyone question whether ICE recognizes it’s operating in a democracy,” Ms. Uribe said.

Immigration officials said they could not respond directly because a court case over the release of the documents remained open. But Brian Hale, an agency spokesman, said in a statement that “deliberative, internal correspondence should not be confused for final policy.”

He said that while communities could not opt out of the program, the police could choose not to receive the results of immigration checks performed when suspects are booked.

A Homeland Security official added that a state could legally refuse to participate in the program, but he said immigration officials were confident that no state would give up its access to national criminal databases.


Immigration laws must be enforced too

As a citizen of a country that boasts that it is a nation of laws, I am extremely concerned about its future, which is looking very grim at the moment because certain elements within our society are fighting tooth and nail to prevent enforcement of our immigration laws — laws, please remember, that were created to protect American workers.

Our immigration crisis exists because:

* Pandering politicians elected to represent the interests of their constituents show more concern and compassion for those who have no respect for our immigration laws and sovereignty but demand that the rest of us respect them.

* Mainstream media for years have portrayed illegal immigrants as victims of a "broken'' immigration policy. Nearly every day, Americans are subjected to news stories that ignore the media's own ethics and standards for fairness and balance, coverage that leaves readers and viewers with the impression that the only people now entitled to "search for a better life'' in this country are the foreign-born, especially those here illegally.

When was the last time you saw a news story and photos of our unemployed who must compete in a horrendous job market while our federal government continues each month to issue 75,000 work permits to newly arrived foreign workers who, for the most part, bring with them few skills and little education?

* A greedy and immoral business community that whines to anybody willing to listen that it can't exist without cheap foreign labor.

I repeat: If both Congress and the media had been doing their respective jobs; that is, being honest with a public entitled to know all the facts, I'm convinced we wouldn't be dealing with issues like whether illegal immigrants are entitled to in-state tuition and driver's licenses.

And we wouldn't be wondering why a president who sold a lot of people a bill of goods about "hope'' and "change'' and who says jobs for Americans are a "top priority,'' is permitting 7 million illegal immigrants to keep their nonagricultural jobs, while 22 million Americans and legal immigrants cannot find full-time employment.

Strict enforcement of our immigration laws, even during healthy economic times, is an absolute necessity if our immigration policy is to be viewed as credible by the rest of the world.

What does such credibility look like? This question was put to the late Texas congresswoman Barbara Jordan when she chaired President Clinton's immigration reform panel. She replied, "Credibility in immigration policy can be summed up in one sentence: Those who should get in, get in; those who should be kept out, are kept out; and those who should not be here will be required to leave.''


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