About 80,000 illegal criminal aliens, including convicted murderers, rapists, drug dealers and child molesters who served prison time and were released, are loose on the streets of America, hiding from federal immigration authorities.
Despite the creation of a new agency to hunt down criminal aliens and the infusion of millions of dollars to get the job done, many state and local police agencies who make contact with the aliens either never learn of their immigration status or never advise the federal government of their release.
According to figures for 2002 from the former Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) and from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), more than 375,000 known illegal aliens have been ordered deported, but have disappeared pending immigration hearings. Washington-area sniper Lee Boyd Malvo was one such alien.
About 80,000 of those people, called “absconders,” already had been convicted and served prison time for felonies, ICE and INS say.
“Keeping our law-enforcement officers in the dark doesn’t make America’s streets safer for anyone,” said Rep. Charlie Norwood, Georgia Republican. “At a time when our officers are faced with arresting and re-arresting the same 80,000 criminal aliens over and over again, we should be giving them greater access to data and more resources.”
Making matters more difficult for federal authorities are several municipalities that have passed ordinances prohibiting their employees, including police officers, from enforcing federal immigration laws.
Known as “sanctuary laws,” the ordinances are in place in varying degree in major cities such as Los Angeles, San Francisco and Houston.
Immigration opponents argue that the laws encourage illegal immigration. Some, including the District-based Federation of American Immigration Reform, have charged that sanctuary laws offer shelter for would-be terrorists by allowing illegal immigrants to establish themselves as residents.
The Friends of Immigration Law Enforcement (FILE), also based in the District, has begun to bring lawsuits against those municipalities with sanctuary ordinances and has promised additional legal challenges.
FILE has argued that state and county governments are prohibited from adopting policies that prevent its employees from contacting federal immigration authorities about the legal status of any noncitizen or to report violations of U.S. immigration law by any noncitizen.
“These policies, called ‘sanctuary policies,’ promise foreign nationals who have broken our laws that the municipality in which they live will help them in their lawbreaking by resisting efforts to report them to the proper authorities,” FILE said in a statement.
“Such policies are illegal, naturally, and have been rejected by the courts. Nevertheless, some cities, remarkably, persist in maintaining their illegal sanctuary policies,” FILE said. “Unfortunately, the executive branch of the federal government has been for many years utterly derelict in forcing, as is its duty, municipalities to abide by the law.”
The National Council of La Raza has defended sanctuary laws, saying that collaboration between federal authorities and state and local municipalities is contrary to U.S. case law and that it results in racial profiling, police misconduct and civil rights violations.
La Raza also charges that it undermines community policing efforts and that it undercuts effective law-enforcement and antiterrorism efforts by diverting resources and leading to additional litigation.