By Joe Guzzardi
December 20, 2012
Finally, Republicans and Democrats may agree about an immigration issue that’s long overdue to be corrected. I’m not talking about passing the DREAM Act or granting amnesty to more than 10 million illegal aliens. Frankly, I don’t expect the 113th Congress to pass sweeping immigration reform especially in light of the Sandy Hook tragedy. Republicans aren’t going to acquiesce on taxes, gun control and immigration.
Nevertheless, an area of mutual accord has surfaced. U.S. Representative Ted Poe (R-TX) is pushing the much needed bill he originally introduced last year to deport criminals back to their home country. The history behind Poe’s bill, H.R. 3256, the Deport Foreign Criminals Act of 2011, is important.
In 2001, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Zadvydas v. Davis that if their native countries won’t accept them, jailed aliens can’t be detained indefinitely once they complete their sentences. The maximum period is six months. Some foreign-born get reduced prison sentences at the time of their conviction because judges anticipate that they will be deported soon after their release. Federal officials, to no avail, caution against this lenient practice.
Since most nations steadfastly refuse to readmit convicted criminals, the United States—ever the patsy—is stuck. During the last four years and operating under the radar, Immigration and Customs Enforcement has released more than 8,500 detainees. We’re not talking about purse snatchers either. Among those set free to roam the streets include murderers and rapists. At least two mass murderers, Laotian Ka Pasasouk and Vietnamese Binh Thai Luc, were released after ICE couldn’t obtain the necessary travel documents from their birth countries. Subsequently, Pasasouk killed four in Northridge, CA. while Luc murdered five in San Francisco. Each had extensive criminal records that include drug, robbery and assault with a deadly weapon charges. Pasasouk and Luc had avoided deportation since 2006 when ICE first ordered them removed. California Governor Jerry Brown offered a ludicrous explanation for why the two killers were freed: to minimize prison overcrowding.
ICE officials exacerbate the problem by refusing, in most cases, to try to declare a detainee dangerous. In the past four years, while immigration officials have released thousands of criminals, court officials say they have handled only 13 cases when ICE sought to hold dangerous aliens longer.
For years, Poe has argued that the United States should stop accepting diplomats from countries who do not repatriate their citizens. The State Department, however, has shown little interest in that practical approach and prefers to pursue diplomatic channels to deport criminal aliens. As a result, State has only refused to issue visas to South America’s Guyana.
Frustrated by State’s failure, Poe’s bill would require the State Department to revoke visa requests submitted by any embassy or consular office representing a country that does not accept its criminals back within 90 days. More than 20 nations including blatant offenders: China, Pakistan, Jamaica and Southeast Asian countries would be impacted.
From the House floor, Poe reaffirmed the need to “get these people out of the country” and that “there ought to be a consequence” for those who don’t cooperate.
And in a rare bipartisan demonstration, Representative Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) agreed that “we’d actually like to get this done.” Lofgren is a leading congressional advocate for liberalized immigration laws.
Regardless of what legislators’ leanings are on immigration, Poe’s bill which has public safety at its core should be a slam dunk.
Joe Guzzardi is a Californians for Population Stabilization Senior Writing Fellow whose columns have been syndicated since 1986. Contact him at [email protected]