Secure Communities — Casualty of Political Agenda in New York

Published on June 22nd, 2011

One of the most important goals for government on any level is to provide for the safety and security of the people who come under the jurisdiction of that government. While I have often been critical of how the DHS fails in an abysmal fashion to live up to its responsibilities at securing our nation’s borders and enforcing the immigration laws from within the interior of the United States, these deficiencies lie in the execution of the measures that should be in place to accomplish these critically important objectives. One of the programs that could be of great help to local and state government is aptly name, “Secure Communities.” Under this program, local and state law enforcement agencies submit the fingerprints of all those who are arrested for committing serious crimes so that ICE can then determine if these individuals are aliens and, if so, if they should be removed from the United States once their criminal cases are disposed of. By utilizing a fingerprint-based methodology, it becomes impossible for profiling to become a factor in these cases. By working cooperatively with ICE, local and state police agencies would benefit from a synergy borne of this effort to locate criminal aliens and help solve one of the biggest challenges that law enforcement in general has, that of recidivism – the fact that criminals who complete their jail sentences upon conviction for crimes often become involved in committing still more crimes once they are released back onto the streets of cities and towns across our nation. A criminal alien who is deported is not able to commit any further crimes in our country. Furthermore, if such a criminal alien unlawfully returns to the United States, he (she) faces a maximum of 20 years of incarceration for the crime of unlawful reentry. Community Safety would seem to provide what its title promises, yet, not long ago, New York State’s Governor Andrew Cuomo yanked the State of New York out of this important program. I would remind you that New York suffered the greatest harm during the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 by aliens who easily gamed the immigration system. Also, the Mexican drug cartels and other pernicious transnational criminal gangs and organizations are making steady inroads in establishing a serious presence in many cities and towns across our country, along with cities and towns in New York. On April 11 of this year, a New York Daily News headline blared: “Feds finding it harder and harder to combat escalating presence of Mexican drug cartels in New York” Here is an excerpt from the article that accompanied that disturbing headline:

New York feds have more than doubled the time spent breaking up the growing network between local gangs and Mexican drug cartels. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents went from spending 13,472 hours in 2009 to more than 30,000 hours last year looking into street criminals-turned-lackeys of Mexican drug rings, officials said. ICE also added three agents in the past few years to fight the drug gangs’ escalating presence. The shift in manpower and time was based on intelligence showing local gangs’ illicit activities had evolved into more sophisticated and businesslike enterprises. ICE agents also have seen a rise in dirty money and weapons confiscated in the New York area. Last year, the feds seized more than $35 million and 57 firearms, a record number in New York, according to ICE figures. “We spent these hours investigating violent, transnational street gang members who are now working closely with sophisticated drug-trafficking organizations,” said James Hayes, special agent in charge of Homeland Security investigations in New York. “We see more and more a correlation between Mexican drug organizations and gangs here in New York,” Hayes added. “New York is a big market for drugs. Mexican cartels want to increase their presence here.”

Recently, ICE issued a news release which contained the following statistics:

“Between Oct. 1, 2010 and April 30, 2011, ICE returned to their countries of origin more than 215,900 aliens, including 109,700 aliens with criminal convictions. Of those, 585 were convicted of homicide, 3,177 were convicted sex offenders, and 24,593 were convicted of serious drug offenses.”

The immigration laws of the United States are intended to prevent the entry and continued presence of aliens whose presence in the United States would be harmful or even dangerous to our nation and to our citizens and, in fact, all people who are present in our country. The immigration laws are utterly blind as to race, religion or ethnicity. The only distinction the immigration laws make is to distinguish between people who are citizens and people who are aliens – that is to say those who are not citizens or nationals of the United States. The enforcement of our nation’s immigration laws is essential because of the widespread impact that immigration has on our nation. While there are those who will state that immigration is solely the responsibility of the federal government – indeed only the federal government is empowered to set immigration policies – the enforcement of immigration laws that are on the books can and must be carried out by local as well as federal officials. Former Speaker of the House Tip O’Neal is remembered for famously remarking that “All politics is local.” In point of fact, all law enforcement is also local. When aliens run our nation’s borders or otherwise gain entry to our nation and then commit crimes in our country, those crimes are committed in cities and towns within the United States from coast to coast and border to border. All too often those crimes have an immediate severe impact on the residents of those towns and cities. There is a mythology that must be laid to rest. That mythology is that the enforcement of our nation’s immigration laws is “anti-immigrant.” I can tell you that based on my 30-year career with the former INS (Immigration and Naturalization Service) nothing could be further from the truth. In point of fact, all too often the victims of the crimes perpetrated by transnational criminals are the members of the immigrant communities whose residents come from the same ethnicity and region of the world as do those criminals. This is true in the Russian immigrant community, the Asian immigrant community and the Caribbean immigrant community, as well as the Latino immigrant community. In fact, when I was assigned to the Unified Intelligence Division of the DEA in New York City in the late 1980s and when I was subsequently promoted to the position of Senior Special Agent with the INS and assigned to the Organized Crime, Drug Enforcement Task Fork (OCDETF), one of my principle responsibilities was to recruit aliens to become cooperators and informants. The immigration laws provide visas for victims of crimes and visas for aliens who decide to work with law enforcement to infiltrate criminal and/or terrorist organizations. Anyone familiar with law enforcement will tell you just how invaluable informants are to the law enforcement mission. Being able to cultivate cooperators and informants within a community is clear and unequivocal evidence of effective community policing. The time has come for politicians to stop pandering to special interest groups and start to truly do what is in the best interest of all who live within the jurisdiction of these politicians, citizens and immigrants alike, and employ our nation’s immigration laws to help combat the threats posed by transnational criminals and terrorists. That is the purpose of our nation’s immigration laws and the time has long passed for the politicians to accept this reality and make the decisions that are consistent with their oaths of office and that are in the best interests of those they govern.

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