Departures on ICE

Published on August 28th, 2008

Illegal immigrant fugitives know they don’t have to leave
By Mark Cromer
August 28, 2008

Uncle Sam’s brainstorm to ask nearly a half-million illegal immigrant fugitives to voluntarily turn themselves in for fast-track deportation died last week to the same reaction it received when it debuted: laughter.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s ‘Scheduled Departure’ program was a bureaucratic stillbirth, inducing a less-than-paltry eight illegal immigrant fugitives to sign up for the free ride home. The humiliating results drew gleeful ridicule on talk radio, where it played like custom-made fodder for those anxious to seize on federal incompetence.

But an unforeseen consequence of the program’s abject failure is now making some immigrant activists in the open-border movement nervous, and with good reason. The absolute refusal of more than 450,000 illegal immigrant fugitives¬—all of whom have been directly ordered by American judges to leave the United States—to accept an offer of expedited and humane repatriation to their home countries exposes the simple truth: aggressive enforcement works; voluntary compliance programs do not.

Immigration lawyer Lisa Ramirez told the Associated Press that she was worried the program’s failure would “empower [ICE] or fuel their enforcement even further.” But Jim Hayes, acting director of ICE’s detention and removal operations, had clearly soured on seeking so-called ‘self-deportations.’

“Quite frankly, I think this proves the only method that works is enforcement,” Hayes told the wire service. Noting the program was launched as an alternative to the ICE raids that activists claim are ‘terrorizing’ families, Hayes said its failure demonstrates that immigrant advocacy groups seek nothing less than mass legalization of all illegal immigrants, including fugitives. “They want amnesty, they want open borders and they want a more vulnerable America,” he said.

But while open border activists fret and enforcement officials posture, the good news for illegal immigrants—fugitives or otherwise—is that the real danger of them being deported remains somewhere south of slim.

Just ask Humberto Higareda Robles.

From what we know about Robles, he is not one of the half-million illegal immigrants who are dodging a court order to leave the country, which speaks volumes considering his case.

In the mid-afternoon on the Fourth of July, as Americans were celebrating the independence of their nation, Robles, an illegal immigrant from Mexico with warrants out for his arrest, was drunk and behind the wheel of a 2001 Ford Aerostar van as it sped across the streets of south Pomona, Ca.

According to the Pomona Police Department, Robles slammed the van into another car, injuring two people, then sped off again into a residential neighborhood, where he lost control of the van, causing it to jump the curb and smash into a utility pole, shearing high voltage lines.

Robles escaped the smoking wreckage and fled on foot, but was arrested a short while later.

Pomona police officers described Robles as belligerent as he was treated at the hospital—at taxpayers expense—and he laughed when police told him that he’d injured two people. When asked if he understood his rights as he was being arrested; Robles spit out an epithet, in English, at the officers.

Robles was booked on multiple charges, including felony hit and run and felony drunk driving.

Because Robles is an illegal immigrant that had a warrant for his arrest stemming from a domestic violence charge that had been filed against him in Los Angeles County in 2002, an ICE-hold was placed on him that denied him bail and flagged him for immigration agents.

And then, like clockwork, the system failed the American people across the board.

The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office chose to file misdemeanor charges against Robles instead of felony counts, and as a result the ICE-hold was dropped. Robles was transferred from Pomona’s city jail to the sprawling men’s central jail in Los Angeles, an overcrowded facility that’s been heavily impacted by illegal immigration.

A week after he nearly killed two people and cost California taxpayers tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars, Robles was brought in front of Judge Judson W. Morris Jr., a 20-year veteran of the bench, where he struck a plea deal on two misdemeanor counts. Morris sentenced Robles to 51 days in county jail.

But as a result of overcrowding in the jail, just 72-hours after the gavel came down Robles was released by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department back onto the streets.

Pomona’s cops are furious and rightly so—a repeat offender with felony arrests under his belt who has no legal right to even be in the country is again free to roam the hardscrabble streets of their city. The next time they roll to a call prompted by Robles, whether it’s a battered girlfriend or the carnage of a DUI, maybe the coroner will be coming with them.

So while ICE’s Hayes talks tough, open border activists should take heart as Robles case again demonstrates what illegal immigrants have known all along: they don’t have to go anywhere.

No wonder Robles was laughing and cursing at the cops when he was booked, he had every confidence that the system wouldn’t let him down. And it surely didn’t.

Mark Cromer is a Senior Writing Fellow for Californians for Population Stabilization (CAPS), www.capsweb.org. He can be reached at [email protected].

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