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Cracking Down on Criminal Illegals By: Charlie Norwood
Houston Chronicle | Friday, August 15, 2003

It should never have happened. This past December, a man and woman sitting on a New York City park bench were surrounded by a gang of young men. The gang kicked and beat the woman before dragging her along the nearby railroad tracks and forcing her into the woods, where they repeatedly raped the 42-year-old mother of two and threatened to kill her.

It was a vicious, tragic and horrific crime, and, again, it should have never happened.

It should have never happened because the five males charged with this heinous act were illegally living in the United States. Even more unbelievably, four of them had a criminal past and had been in the hands of law enforcement authorities, two having actually served jail time. But instead of being immediately deported, as the law insists, they were released back onto the streets.

This case is troubling enough alone, but when pieced together with the growing litany of tragic tales in big cities and small towns alike, it becomes clear that this criminal alien offense is more than just an isolated incident. Instead, this heartbreaking episode is reflective of a badly broken immigration law enforcement system that provides little or no coordination between federal, state and local officials; is badly outmanned; results in safe havens for common criminals who roam the countryside, instead of safe streets for the law-abiding citizens who call it home; and needlessly and increasingly endangers the very homeland security of the United States at a critical time in our nation's history.

In today's America, there are almost 400,000 individuals who have been ordered deported but are instead hiding out in our communities. Of these, roughly 80,000 are criminal aliens. That means there are 80,000 illegal aliens with criminal convictions on the prowl thanks to our broken immigration system. Think about that. They were in the hands of law enforcement at one point, but are walking the streets today when the law says they should have been deported.

Can you imagine if our government decided one day that we would invite 80,000 aliens to live here illegally, oh, and by the way, they're all going to be convicted criminals? It would be a catastrophic event and would be met with universal outrage. But because today's state of affairs has been allowed to happen over an extended period of time and gone largely unreported by the mainstream media, it seems somehow less shocking. The fact is, however, the result is exactly the same in either instance -- a failed system and a major crisis.

So what great force of manpower is our federal government devoting to this problem? A total of 2,000 agents. That's right. Just 2,000 federal agents have the job of enforcing our immigration laws.

It's high time we gave these outmanned folks some much needed help.

Last month, I introduced a bill that will take a giant step in that direction, the Clear Law Enforcement for criminal Alien Removal Act of 2003 (or CLEAR Act).

This is legislation that will finally give assistance and motivation to the 2,000 agents in the field; access to data, clarification of jurisdiction, and appropriate funding and training to local and state law officers who will now be able to help them; clarification and teeth to the laws already on the books; and order and accountability to a system that has lacked both for too long.

We shouldn't accept a system that allows criminal aliens to be turned loose, fall between the cracks, and commit crimes again and again, but we do. We shouldn't accept a system that discourages a local police officer from enforcing immigration laws, but we do.

The brutal attack and rape that took place last December in a New York City park should have never happened. If this legislation had been in place, it would have never been permitted to happen.

Rep. Charlie Norwood is a Republican from Georgia.

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