- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Illegals, local police and the law

Virginia Beach doesn’t have it backward; Tom Knott has it wrong (“Virginia Beach has it backward on illegal aliens,” Metropolitan, Thursday).

The policy of the Virginia Beach Police Department (VBPD) regarding questioning individuals about their status in the country is one that is mirrored in major cities across the nation, such as San Jose, Los Angeles, Boston, Houston and Detroit, and also Arlington County. It is not my “brainchild.” Rather, it was set after thoughtful and considered debate and examination of reality.

VBPD policy allows officers to question a person’s status in the country when that person is arrested for a felony or suspected of being involved in gang activity, terrorism or human smuggling. We don’t ask otherwise because officials from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have told us, and our experience has shown, that they will not respond or take action in misdemeanor cases because they lack the funding and manpower to do so.

To ask the question under such circumstances is nothing more than a “feel good” measure that does nothing to make our streets safer. Local law enforcement, even with a memorandum of agreement with ICE, doesn’t have the authority to deport an illegal alien, period. Without ICE’s involvement, such aliens are free to stay in our country.

We recently disrupted a fake-ID operation in Virginia Beach and recovered more than 200 records — including photographs — of false IDs that had been purchased by apparent illegal aliens. ICE refused to get involved in this case.

Fortunately, we were able to get the U.S. Secret Service and the U.S. Attorney’s Office to take the case federally. ICE responded to the Virginia Beach City Jail approximately 30 times last year when illegal aliens were reported to it by the Sheriff’s Office, yet ICE issued just three detainers.

In the case at hand, Mr. Knott suggests that a U.S. citizen with Alfredo Ramos’ record (convicted of being drunk in public and driving under the influence in Chesapeake and of being drunk in public in Virginia Beach) would have been taken off the streets.

He’s wrong.

Drunk-in-public arrests routinely result in time to sober up in the “drunk tank” and a minor fine, and the sentence Ramos received for DUI in Chesapeake is in keeping with the typical punishment for a first offense DUI in Virginia, which has some of the toughest DUI laws in the country.

Mr. Knott cites a statement by a VBPD spokesperson regarding concern about civil rights violations. This statement was edited by local TV news and misquoted by local print media. What the spokesperson said was that local law enforcement would be treading on thin ice to begin stopping people on the street and questioning them about their status in the country, as we undoubtedly would confront U.S.-born or naturalized citizens with such questions.

Of whom do we ask such questions? Only those with brown skin or who speak with an accent or whose names sound “non-American”? Clearly, those who are citizens or otherwise are in the country legally would tire quickly of such confrontations and rightfully would file discrimination suits against us, and we would further alienate ourselves from a significant segment of our community.

An estimated 12 million aliens are in this country illegally. Without question, failure is evident here. It is a failure of Mr. Knott to consider realities. It also is the failure of federal officials to set a clear policy on immigration and provide the needed resources to the federal agency that bears the responsibility to enforce immigration laws — ICE.

Our national policy on immigration is convoluted, disjointed and illogical, and it must be fixed at the national level, not on the streets of our cities.

Readers should be reminded that the most important fact in this issue is that two young women, whose car Ramos struck, had their lives needlessly cut short, period.

A.M. JACOCKS JR.

Chief of police

Virginia Beach Police Department

Virginia Beach

Whatever happened to intellectual courage?

I would like to applaud Walter William’s column “The shame of higher education” (Commentary, April 8). I am a student at George Mason University, and his article perfectly expressed my frustration with the prevalence of curricula that have been filtered through a prism of political progressivism.

As both a libertarian and an aspiring educator, I have encountered tremendous hostility toward my viewpoints from professors and administrators alike. I am continually amazed by the number of teachers who reward students for demonstrating the “proper” moral and political perspective in their classrooms and punish those who fail to do so.

Free inquiry and intellectual courage have been replaced by the demand that students adhere to the dogma of social welfare and governmental regulation. I am increasingly convinced that rather than guiding students in the development of critical, analytical, and imaginative thinking in order to make well-founded ethical decisions, as the university mission statement claims, GMU — like many other institutions of higher learning — fosters only the unthinking adoption of a liberal doctrine.

Thank you again for calling attention to the trend of “indoctrination, intolerance, academic dishonesty and the new racism” that is corroding America’s colleges and universities.

R.J. Matthews

Oakton

Presidential electors

Many endorse the idea of a national popular vote, and now Maryland has legislation that will bypass the Electoral College (“O’Malley signs bill to change electoral voting system,” Metropolitan, Wednesday). Though it is within the General Assembly’s prerogative to do so, this whole scheme of awarding a whole state’s electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote is simply a reaction to the 2000 election, which Democrats have never gotten over. It would create more distorted results than are possible under the current system. The lack of proportionality makes this proposal a farce, bound to backfire on the states that enact it.

The framers of the Constitution knew what they were doing in establishing the Electoral College. The presidential election is not one national election but 50 state elections. The framers might simply have gone with the “one state, one vote” concept, under which the candidate winning a majority of states would be elected. (That would have resulted in a President Nixon in 1960 and retained President Ford in 1976.) Instead, they created a weighted average vote by assigning electors by each state’s congressional delegation, thus ensuring a minimum of three votes per state. Though various other systems rather than winner take all, such as percentage or congressional district awarding of electoral votes (again, all within the control of independent state legislatures) might be more fair, they would almost never change the outcome.

National popular vote advocates want to make individual state outcomes irrelevant, but indeed they are not. The framers realized that large urban areas might determine the outcome of some states, but they did not want any state to be irrelevant if its popular vote went against the national total. With national campaigns, it is the closeness of a contest, rather than the size of the electoral vote, that makes individual states important. This shift also has seen a declining importance of third-party candidates because unless they can win an individual state, they don’t affect the overall electoral vote. The framers created a system in which regional strength could deadlock an election, rather than third-party candidates simply being able to deny a majority to the two major candidates.

One alternative, which also would restore some importance to third-party candidates, would be to have each state award two votes to whoever carries the state but award the remaining 436 votes at large in proportion to the national popular vote. The major candidates would get credit for their national percentage as well as the number of states they carried and inherently more credit for the states they lost narrowly. Third-party candidates would get an electoral vote if they got at least 0.23 percent of the national popular vote. If this system threw presidential elections into the House of Representatives because no one got a majority of the popular vote or of the electoral vote, so be it. The framers always saw this as a possibility in close elections.

JAMES SCARBOROUGH

McLean

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