President Obama's new policy to allow "prosecutorial discretion" in immigration policy may sound reasonable to compassionate ears. However, as is often true, when the policy is brought to fruition, the implications are often disastrous.
What is Secure Communities?
It is an already-existing federal information-sharing partnership between ICE and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) that helps to identify criminal aliens without imposing new or additional requirements on state and local law enforcement. For decades, local jurisdictions have shared the fingerprints of individuals who are arrested or booked into custody with the FBI to see if they have a criminal record. Under Secure Communities, the FBI automatically sends the fingerprints to ICE to check against its immigration databases. If these checks reveal that an individual is unlawfully present in the United States or otherwise removable due to a criminal conviction, ICE takes enforcement action.
What are the changes to Secure Communities & when did they occur?
On July 17, 2011, John Morton (Director of ICE) issued a memorandum which ordered prioritizing the removal of individuals who present the most significant threats to public safety as determined by the severity of their crime, their criminal history, and other factors – as well as those who have repeatedly violated immigration laws. "The president of the National Immigration and Customs Enforcement Council, the union that represents an estimated 7,000 immigration agents across the country, denounced the memo as a "law enforcement nightmare," stated the article, Immigration: Changes to Secure Communities are for the better.
There is nothing in the memo that specifically states that the change applies to Secure Communities only. Some of the relevant factors that attorneys, agents and others should consider in exercising discretion are: the person's ties and contributions to the community, including family relationships; the person's ties to the home country and conditions in the country; whether the person's nationality renders removal unlikely, etc.
What has been the end-result?
In August 2011, the Immigration Subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee requested figures on criminal immigrants and their effect on public safety which would be used to inform Congress. In November 2011, the Subcommittee had to issue a subpoena requesting a "list of illegal and criminal immigrants that have been brought to the attention of ICE through Secure Communities but have not been detained or placed in removal proceedings by the agency." The information was provided in December 2011. The data covered the period between October 27, 2008 & July 31, 2011.
In short, the report found that:
- There are 276,412 records of charges against illegal & criminal immigrants identified through Secure Communities. There are 159,286 unique individuals and 205,101 unique arrest incidents.
- 17% (26,412) of illegal & criminal immigrants were rearrested on criminal charges within three years of their release. The over 26,000 that were rearrested accounted for 42,827 arrests and 57,763 alleged violations.
- Of the alleged violations there were nearly 8500 DUIs, 6000 drug violations, 4000 major criminal offenses (e.g., murder, assault, rape, kidnapping), 3000 thefts & over 1000 other violent crimes (e.g., stalking, carjacking, torture, etc.)
- Of those rearrested, 30% were illegal aliens who were arrested for crimes such as murder, attempted murder and sex crimes.
What does this mean?
The Obama administration's permission to "ignore" some illegal aliens has led to an increase of criminal activity. Remember, the illegal alien has already violated immigration laws. To simply, "look the other way", does nothing but encourages, not only more illegal immigration, but further law-breaking. A month after announcing the new policy, Chris Crane, president of the National ICE Council stated, "Morale is in the toilet right now…Most of the guys out in the field are just in an uproar.” In an interview with Fox's Todd Starnes, Chris Crane elaborated, “They call it discretion but it’s not our discretion. We have no discretion.” Crane said a case involving a veteran ICE agent is a perfect illustration. The agent arrested an illegal who was not a “primary target.” The agent’s superior officers ordered the illegal released – even though he did not meet the criteria listed by the Dept. of Homeland Security. The officer refused to follow orders and is now facing a three day suspension. The 35-year-old illegal immigrant with ten traffic violations was released. He pointed to another case in El Paso where an illegal immigrant injured an ICE agent during an attempted escape. Again, Crane said, because the individual was not a priority target, he was released without any charges being filed.