- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 10, 2004

A Georgia congressman says U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) needs help in capturing thousands of convicted aliens now loose on the streets of America and wants Congress to pass pending bipartisan legislation to address “America’s criminal alien crisis.”

Rep. Charlie Norwood said 80,000 illegal aliens who served time in prison and were released, including convicted murderers, rapists, drug dealers and child molesters, have eluded capture despite the creation of a new agency to hunt them down and the infusion of millions of dollars to get the job done.

“Sending 2,000 federal agents into the field to find 80,000 criminal aliens is like trying to stop a tidal wave with hand towels — it’s a farce, it doesn’t work, and the outmanned folks at ICE — as the numbers now show us — are simply drowning,” said the Georgia Republican.

“These latest numbers are a wake-up call for Congress to stop making political hay and start getting serious about helping ICE find, arrest and deport the 80,000 criminal aliens our broken immigration system has released back into our streets,” he said.

According to ICE and its predecessor agency, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, more than 375,000 known illegal aliens have been ordered deported, but have disappeared before immigration hearings. About 80,000 of those aliens, referred to by ICE as “absconders,” already had been convicted and served prison time for felonies.

Mr. Norwood said ICE agents, according to a report last week, have arrested 150 criminal aliens, which he said “translates into a shocking .002 percent success rate for ICE in its effort to remove these individuals from America’s streets and neighborhoods.”

The five-term congressman introduced the Clear Law Enforcement for Alien Removal Act on July 9 that would, among other things, give 600,000 state and local police officers authority to enforce immigration laws. The pending bill, with 115 co-sponsors of both parties, also would grant state and local police agencies access to the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) database for immigration-status information.

In addition to its 115 bipartisan congressional co-sponsors, Mr. Norwood said the pending bill also has been endorsed by 20 law-enforcement organizations nationwide, including the National Sheriffs’ Association, Law Enforcement Alliance of America, Southern States Police Benevolent Association, Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police and Connecticut Association of Women’s Police.

Last month, several pro-immigration and civil rights groups filed a class-action lawsuit to stop the government from entering immigration information into NCIC, saying the data was being misused in the wake of the September 11 attacks.

Filed in U.S. District Court in New York, the suit charges that the Justice Department unlawfully entered immigration information into NCIC, subjecting immigrants to the risk of unlawful arrest by state and local police. The suit also questioned the authority of Attorney General John Ashcroft to enlist state and local police in the enforcement of federal immigration laws.

The suit was filed by La Raza, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, Latin American Workers Project, New York Immigration Coalition and the Union of Needletrades and Industrial and Textile Employees.

The NCIC database, which includes information on felons, fugitives and others being sought by federal law enforcement, was expanded after the September 11 attacks to include immigrant criminals who failed to show up for their deportation hearings.

It includes the names of thousands of immigrants who registered with the government under the “special registration” program, which requires that foreign visitors from designated countries register when they enter the United States. NCIC is used by 80,000 law-enforcement agencies across the country.


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