- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 22, 2004

The author of a House bill that would give 600,000 state and local police officers the authority to enforce federal immigration law has called on immigrant-rights advocates who converged on Capitol Hill this week to “stand up for immigrants, not criminals.”

Rep. Charlie Norwood, Georgia Republican, said the National Council of La Raza and other groups taking part in a week-long rally in Washington and 68 other cities should “come clean” on their opposition to the pending legislation.

“While La Raza and that crowd storm the countryside to rail against the enforcement of immigration laws in this nation, the light of hope held by immigrants and others wanting to live in neighborhoods free from criminal aliens and their violent crimes just grew a little dimmer,” said Mr. Norwood, whose Clear Law Enforcement for Alien Removal Act (CLEAR Act) would, among other things, give state and local police the authority to enforce immigration law.

“Tragically, La Raza and the other groups … are only promoting the continued endangerment of the very people they claim to represent,” he said. “It’s high time La Raza and that crowd … either come clean with immigrants and everyone else regarding their decision to put the interests of criminal aliens first or … start actually representing the best interests of immigrants and everyone else by standing with law enforcement and supporting the CLEAR Act.”

More than 100 immigrant-rights advocates and religious, labor and community leaders came to Capitol Hill this week to encourage lawmakers to support legislation giving legal status to immigrant agricultural workers and students now in this country.

Rally participants, as part of the “National Week of Action,” pressed lawmakers for immigration reform and called on immigrant communities to participate in the political process as voters if they are eligible and as activists if they are not.

The rally, sponsored by the National Immigration Forum, New American Opportunity Campaign, National Council of La Raza and National Asian Pacific American Legal Consortium, called for the passage of several pending bills and the defeat of the CLEAR Act.

About 8 million to 12 million illegal aliens are thought to be living and working in the United States.

Mr. Norwood introduced the CLEAR Act in July 2003. With 124 co-sponsors of both parties, it ensures that state and local police have jurisdictional authority to enforce immigration laws during the course of exercising their regular duties. It also gives them access to the National Crime Information Center for immigration information.

According to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, more than 320,000 aliens with standing deportation orders and 80,000 criminal aliens cannot be found and are living within America’s borders — including nearly 4,000 of whom have been identified as foreign nationals from countries that support international terrorism.

ICE, because of budgetary restraints, has committed 2,300 agents to find those missing aliens.

Mr. Norwood said ICE needs help in capturing the thousands of convicted aliens now loose on the streets of America — including convicted murderers, rapists, drug dealers and child molesters — and his bill would do that.

“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,” Mr. Norwood said.

The bill is pending before the House Judiciary subcommittee on immigration, border security and claims.

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