- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 14, 2005

Virginians this week received two more reminders of how the federal government’s failed immigration policies have forced state and local law enforcement to release thousands of illegal immigrants into the streets of American cities and towns. At 8:45 a.m. Sunday, a Fairfax County police officer stopped a Dodge van for making an illegal U-turn at Braddock and Ravensworth roads in Annandale. Eleven Mexican nationals in the van, all of them in the United States illegally, were turned over to the Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency. ICE promptly released them in exchange for a promise to return.

Then, at around 10 p.m. on Tuesday, Virginia State Police in Spotsylvania County, stopped a Dodge Van with a broken windshield and headlight; 12 of the 14 persons in the van were in the country illegally, including a 10-month-old infant. A police spokesman said that the persons in the van were of Hispanic descent and were travelling from New York to Florida to pick tomatoes. Given the myriad loopholes in federal immigration law, it would hardly come as a surprise to learn in the next few days that most of the illegals detained in Spotsylvania County have been freed.

A Virginia law enacted last year permits law enforcement to detain illegals suspected of a crime. They can also be detained if they have been previously convicted of a felony or left the United States after a conviction and illegally returned. But under state law, local police have no authority to detain someone solely for being in the country illegally. That’s supposed to be a federal responsibility.

In theory, state and local authorities in Virginia and other states are supposed to be able to turn such suppects over to ICE within 72 hours. But ICE often refuses to detain such illegal immigrants on grounds that it lacks the space to hold them. The resulting policy, known as “catch and release,” has made illegal immigrants a special, protected class of lawbreakers. In fact, neither Congress nor the Bush administration has been willing to push for more detention facilities.

The consequences of these failures are plain for all to see. There are approximately 400,000 illegal immigrants who have failed to appear at immigration hearings or disobeyed orders to leave, and approximately 70,000 of these are persons with criminal records. Some ICE personnel claim that they have had to release illegals with substantial criminal histories. What’s indisputable is that many of the illegals who have made it into the country in recent years have been dangerous criminals, ranging from Rafael Ramirez, “the Railroad Killer,” who murdered at least nine people, and many members of the MS-13, a Salvadoran street gang that is active in many American cities.

There is every reason to believe that what passes for immigration enforcement today is a farce that endangers public safety.

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