Should police detain immigrants?

Moderated by Rick Badie

Pro-immigrant activists praise Fulton County’s decision to not honor the federal government’s request to hold suspected undocumented immigrants, a common practice in Georgia and nationwide that the writer deems illegal imprisonment. Meanwhile, a Manhattan Institute scholar expresses support for the enforcement policy as part of the Secure Communities program.

Detention requests warrantless

By Azadeh Shahshahani and Adelina Nicholls

In September, the Fulton County Board of Commissioners moved to limit the county’s compliance with federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement requests to hold people in jail beyond the time they would otherwise be released so that the government can investigate their immigration status. These holds are known as ICE detainers.

The commissioners were right to question the practice. Recent federal court decisions make it clear local law enforcement agencies that detain individuals on the sole authority of an ICE detainer request violate the Fourth Amendment, exposing them to legal liability unless there has been an independent finding of probable cause to justify detention. The courts have also found that it is not mandatory that local authorities comply with ICE detainers.

The detainer requests are tools of an unfunded federal mandate that imposes hefty fiscal burdens on states and localities. The federal government is not required to reimburse localities for the costs of compliance. The Fulton County Sheriff’s Department confirms ICE does not reimburse it for this purpose. Even the Department of Justice program intended to reimburse localities for jailing certain immigrants pays only pennies on the dollar.

Moreover, there is no evidence holding people in detention longer under these ICE holds contributes to public safety.

Recently, a study conducted by two law professors at the University of Chicago and New York University found that Secure Communities, a program that relies on ICE detainers and local police to extend a massive deportation dragnet, has had zero effect on the crime rate. Secure Communities actually alienates community members from local police. It makes them afraid to report crime and cooperate with investigations. The result: All are less safe.

A Georgia-specific study published recently by our organizations as well as the National Day Laborer Organizing Network and the NYU School of Law Immigrant Rights Clinic also revealed troubling patterns in the implementation of Secure Communities that involved racial discrimination, indiscriminate targeting of immigrants, and the chilling effect these have had on immigrant interaction with local police.

Based on a review of data obtained from ICE through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, the report outlines the exponential growth of local police involvement in immigration enforcement and the unfortunate impact on residents.

Case in point: From 2007 to 2013, ICE detainers in Georgia rose from 75 in 2007 to 12,952 through June 2013. Moreover, 96.4 percent of those targeted in 2013 were of “dark or medium complexion,” up from 66.7 percent in 2007. In comparison, from 2007 to 2013, ICE placed an immigration hold on only 1.6 percent of individuals with fair or light complexions.

These numbers are both damning as to what law enforcement has been doing in Georgia, and heartbreaking for their impact on Georgia communities. One can imagine the chilling effect this has had on people’s confidence in the police and the risk to all of our safety when so many residents live in fear of the deportation apparatus police have lent themselves to. The report reveals the human cost, erosion of rights and rise of a culture of suspicion.

The resolution by Fulton officials asking the sheriff to limit compliance with ICE detainers is a good first step to ensure we put public safety first and protect local authorities from legal liability. Fulton County is poised to join more than 290 other localities including four states — Colorado, California, Connecticut and Rhode Island — that have rejected warrantless ICE detention requests. Other communities in Georgia should follow suit.

Azadeh N. Shahshahani is national security/immigrants’ rights project director for the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Georgia. Adelina Nicholls is executive director of the Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights.

Deliver illegal immigrants to ICE

By Heather Mac Donald

By Heather Mac Donald

To glimpse the future of American immigration enforcement, look no further than the growing campaign against the Secure Communities program.

Under Secure Communities, federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials are automatically notified when an illegal alien is booked into a local jail. ICE authorities may then start deportation proceedings against the alien once he is released from jail or prison.

ICE rarely uses its power to deport illegal alien offenders: In 2012, ICE was notified of more than 400,000 jail detainees but removed only 19 percent. The removal rate was on track to be even lower in 2013. About half of those criminal illegal aliens whom ICE chooses not to deport re-offend upon release.Yet immigrant advocates argue that the already low removal rate is far too high. They have persuaded numerous cities, counties and states to defy ICE requests to deliver illegal alien criminals to its custody after confinement, with an exception only for the most egregious cases of violent or property crime. The activists’ opposition to Secure Communities embodies the astonishing claim that someone who breaks American law by sneaking into the country illegally, and who then goes on to break other American laws, should nevertheless be exempt from deportation.

Only a few years ago, immigrant advocates protested an Arizona law, SB 1070, that encouraged state police officers to assist with federal immigration enforcement. The Obama administration joined the activists’ fight and sued Arizona for its alleged violation of federal supremacy over immigration policy. Now those same illegal alien advocates have reversed themselves and demand that states and localities defy federal authority and establish sanctuaries from federal immigration law.

The attack on Secure Communities ignores everything we have learned about criminal behavior over the past two decades. Criminals are rarely scrupulous about obeying the law; enforcing misdemeanor offenses is an effective way of incapacitating more serious criminals.

Two weeks ago, an illegal alien from Mexico went on a lethal rampage across Northern California, killing two sheriff’s deputies in cold blood and attempting to murder three other deputies as well as a civilian. Luis Enrique Monroy Bracamonte had been cited at least10 times for misdemeanor traffic violations over the previous decade, including at least one hit-and-run incident, and had been deported in 1997 and 2001 following drug and gun arrests, reentering illegally after each deportation.

Had Bracamonte been arrested for drunk driving, say, a day before his killing spree, the advocates would undoubtedly have opposed any deportation effort, on the ground that his most recent offenses were “minor.”

But even when an offender does not go on to commit more violent felonies, such allegedly “minor” offenses as shoplifting, graffiti and drug dealing create a sense of lawlessness and disorder that breaks down a community’s fabric. The argument that Secure Communities could make crime victims reluctant to cooperate with police is specious, since the program targets criminals, not victims.

The most corrosive effect of the crusade against Secure Communities, however, is simply to undermine the rule of law. Deportation is the duly enacted penalty for illegal presence. Someone who knowingly violates immigration law has assumed the risk of deportation for that offense alone. Add to that initial lawbreaking other crimes, and the illegal alien has no claim whatsoever to avoid the consequences of his behavior.

The advocates’ ultimate goal is to delegitimize deportation entirely as a response to illegal immigration. Never mind that other countries, including Mexico, routinely remove illegal immigrants. If someone cannot be removed for illegal entry, national sovereignty becomes meaningless, and immigration laws, a nullity. Should the advocates succeed in their mission, the United States will have formally ceded control of its immigration policy to people living outside its borders.

Heather Mac Donald is Thomas W. Smith fellow at the Manhattan Institute and a contributing editor of City Journal magazine.


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