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A CLEAR Solution for Criminal Aliens By: Steve Brown and Chris Coon
FrontPageMagazine.com | Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Although federal law demands local law agencies cooperate with the authorities on immigration cases, some "sanctuary communities" have flaunted their violation of these statutes. Now a Georgia Republican has introduced a bill to actively involve local law enforcement officials in apprehending and deporting criminal illegal aliens.

Rep. Charlie Norwood has introduced legislation that he hopes will finally put to rest the question of local responsibility in enforcing federal immigration law. Called the Clear Law Enforcement for Criminal Alien Removal Act of 2003 (CLEAR Act, H.R. 2671), the bill would implement simple reforms to assist the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (BICE, formally the INS) by giving their 2,000 agents the backing of the 600,000 state and local police officers in the fight against illegal immigration. The bill would criminalize previously civil infractions and provide funding for the training and support of immigration law enforcement by local authorities. As Norwood explains, "First and foremost, this bill will clarify that state and local officers have the inherent authority to arrest and detain criminal and illegal aliens during the normal course of their duty."

If passed, the CLEAR Act would also add persons who are in violation of immigration law to the National Criminal Information Center database, giving law enforcement a powerful tool for tracking, arresting and deporting criminal aliens. "This is the most accessible database that local officers have at their disposal... they can access it from their patrol cars," Norwood said.

Opposition arose from the usual suspects; liberal lawyers groups such as the ACLU and National Immigration Law Center; open borders proponents like Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS); and ethnic identity groups such as MALDEF, the Muslim Civil Rights Center, La Raza, the National Iranian-American Council and the American Muslim Voice (AMV). Joining the chorus against the much-needed reforms are some law enforcement groups including the California Police Chiefs Association and domestic violence activist groups such as the Family Violence Prevention Fund (FVPF).

FVPF President Esta Soler lays out her complaint: "By giving local police forces the authority to enforce civil immigration laws, the CLEAR Act would undermine essential federal protections that were established under the Violence Against Women Act. These protections were specifically crafted to ensure that immigrant women would not have to fear deportation if they reported abuse and other violence to local law enforcement authorities.

"Immigrant victims of violence against women are less likely to report crimes or seek police protection than are citizens, because they fear deportation…A local police department that enforces immigration laws will lose the trust of an immigrant community that it should serve and protect," she added.

But according to Norwood staffer Duke Hipp, what they fail to recognize is that while the police would have the authority to act on information gathered in their investigations, their first concern naturally will be the arrest of violent offenders. The discretion of the officers to withhold the information to protect victims and witnesses of crime would remain. Under the CLEAR Act, these victims would be better protected, as the ability to track and arrest criminal aliens would be enhanced and streamlined.  

A Palm Springs, CA, Desert Sun editorial claims the CLEAR Act "opens the door to racial profiling." Not so, Hipp says. "Local police already have good racial profiling training and practices down, this wouldn’t change that a bit."

Currently there are over 8 million illegal aliens within the country, but the bill's focus is the 400,000 aliens with standing deportation orders, including 80,000 aliens who have committed serious crimes but continue to walk the streets. Nearly 3,800 of those with deportation orders are from countries with a known al-Qaeda presence. The arrest, imprisonment and deportation of these thugs should be a top priority. The arrests of rapists, murderers, pedophiles and drug dealers who victimize society while free due to legal loopholes have led 110 congressmen, including House Majority Whip Rep. Roy Blunt, to sign on as co-sponsors to the bill. The National Sheriffs’ Association, the Law Enforcement Alliance of America and the Southern States Police Benevolent Association have also lent their support.

Crimes committed by illegals are legion: there is John Lee Malvo, one of the D.C. sniper suspects, had been released by INS after crossing our border. Armando Garcia, a Mexican national, had been deported three times and had been charged with attempted murder in the past. In April 2002, he shot and killed L.A. County Deputy David March during a routine traffic stop. Mexican ex-con Adrian Camacho has been charged with shooting, pistol-whipping and executing another California policeman, Tony Zeppetella of Oceanside, at point blank range during a traffic stop.

Honduran Reynaldo Rapalo, in the country on an expired visa, has confessed to terrorizing Miami-area women during the past year. DNA evidence links Rapalo with seven sexual assaults, including the rape of an 11-year-old girl. He was in police custody last October on molestation charges, yet somehow he was on the streets soon after, free to continue his sexual assault spree. Had his visa information been entered into the NCIC database when his visa expired many of his victims may have been spared.

In August 2002, convicted child molester and illegal alien Miguel Angelo Gordoba was released from prison in Georgia, after serving a four-year sentence for molesting a 3-year-old girl. The INS dropped the ball and failed to have the proper paperwork done to deport this monster. Local authorities registered him as a sex offender and set him free. Upon inspection of the address provided to the sex offender list the local sheriff found only a vacant lot. Gordoba is currently free, his whereabouts unknown.

In Lakewood, NJ, six illegal aliens from Mexico were indicted for the July 13th rape of a 33-year-old woman. In Carmichael, CA,. a 19-year-old developmentally disabled girl was allegedly raped by Luis Jeovanny Saravia, an illegal from El Salvador with 9 previous sexual assault convictions. Five illegals in upstate New York have been charged with the gang rape of two girls, aged 14 and 15, who had run away from home. The Honduran natives were all members of the Benkard Barrios Kings gang and well known to local police.

In December 2002, there was the case of a 42-year-old, mother of two and her boyfriend who were attacked by a group of five thugs in a New York City park. Both were beaten and robbed. The five men then sexually assaulted the woman over a period of hours. Four of the men had been in the custody of NYC police at some point before the rape. All were illegal aliens, but because of the city's non-cooperation policy, these men were free to walk the streets.

Of course, the most serious case of criminal aliens who slipped through the cracks were the 9/11 hijackers who caused the deaths of 3,000 people.

While these are among the most well-known cases, thousands of others exist. If the ACLU and family abuse activists were truly concerned about the effects of crime on the immigrant community, they would support the CLEAR Act. Instead they and the open-border proponents talk of potential abuses such as profiling and civil rights violations they fear untrained police officers will commit in enforcing immigration laws. However, Norwood's bill provides ample funding to train officers, granting $2.5 billion for those who wish to voluntarily participate in the program.

Recognizing the need, Norwood explained "[A]ll of this clarified authority is going to require more funding, training, and equipment. We certainly recognize that in this bill and have provided for a new grant program and training program to name just a few of the additional resources." Despite the funding, the CLEAR Act would not interfere with local police forces' established procedures. "Whatever local police procedures are in place, this wouldn’t affect any of them. It wouldn’t encourage officers to do anything differently than what they’re already doing," Norwood staffer Duke Hipp told Frontpagemag.com.

This desire to involve local law enforcement in apprehending illegals is nearly a decade old. The Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act passed by the Republican-controlled Congress and signed into law in 1996 by then-President Clinton sought to remove the red tape and constitutional conflicts that prevented local cooperation with the federal government on the matter of immigration law enforcement. The law prevented local governments from prohibiting its officials from voluntarily reporting aliens in violation of immigration laws to the federal government. By allowing local officials to cooperate with federal authorities, Congress sought to bring local governments into compliance with the law.

Coupled with the Welfare Reform act of 1996, which gave state social service administrators and other government employees the authority to request proof of citizenship from all applicants for any state service, these reforms empowered local officials to protect our borders.

Unfortunately many state and local governments continue to evade federal law through sanctuary and similar non-cooperation policies. Harboring or encouraging illegals has long been a felony under federal law.

One roadblock to local enforcement of federal immigration law is the different legal classifications given to those who enter our country without authorization. While the act of crossing the border is currently a misdemeanor, enforceable during commission, once in the country non-resident aliens fall under civil immigration violations rather than criminal. Overstaying a visa or ignoring deportation orders are also civil infractions and generally considered outside the jurisdiction of non-federal law enforcement officials. While the Bush Justice Department has issued an opinion that local enforcement has the "inherent authority" to act on civil immigration violations, their ruling has faced opposition from both open borders proponents and some law enforcement groups.

Norwood's CLEAR Act addresses the most serious concern of local law enforcement: the nonfeasance of federal immigration officers. In the past, many local officers have attempted to report criminal aliens they come into contact with to the BICE office in their area. Often, whether because of indifference or the overwhelming caseload they face, immigration agents simply take down the information and advise the local officer to release the alien. This frustration has led to apathy by many local officials. To address this the bill establishes an independent review process of BICE officials and would establish fines for agency failures.

To eliminate problems like the release of Gordoba in Georgia, the bill would expand the Institutional Review Program which requires BICE to have all paperwork finished, to take custody immediately upon completion of the criminal's prison sentence and to expedite the deportation process.

"It's simply shocking to me that Miguel Gordoba, a criminal alien child molester, was released back onto our streets because America's federal immigration system is so badly out-manned, ineffective, and unresponsive. But it's downright dangerous to think that the same broken immigration system still has no record of this criminal in any of its databases today - much less, any idea where he might be hiding out," Norwood told Frontpagemag.com.

"Turning 80,000 Miguel Gordoba's loose within our borders (as this broken system has) is reckless, unacceptable, and just as wrong as the day is long. It's time we got serious about the criminal alien crisis that threatens all of us by giving our local and state law enforcement folks the support they deserve and insisting that our federal government lives up to its end of the bargain."

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