- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 26, 2007

Takoma Park police have asked for more authoritywhen dealing with illegal aliens convicted of certain crimes, despite the city recently reaffirming a long-standing policy of noncooperation with federal immigration officials.

Police Chief Ronald A. Ricucci said he made the requestin partbecause the federal National Crime Information Center (NCIC) database shows an increasing number of immigration-related warrants.

“I have a responsibility to protect our community and our officers,” he said. “I’d hate to have somebody in our custody who is a danger to our community, and we have an opportunity to get them off the street. You’d hate to think you let somebody go.”

Chief Ricucci also said he wants officers to have the opportunity to review immigration-related warrants before making a decision.

“I’m not looking for the mother of three children who’s driving a van and who failed to fill out a green card 22 years ago,” he said. “My concern is for violent, convicted felons who are a danger to our society.”

The city is known across the country for its liberalism.

In 1983, officials declared the city a nuclear-free zone. On Monday, residents in Takoma Park, on the northeast border of the District, symbolically voted to impeach President Bush.

City Attorney Susan Silber and Assistant City Attorney Kenneth Sigman last week told the City Council the sanctuary policy “is a valid law that is not superceded by state or federal statute.” Chief Ricucci said the attorneys told him officers must adhere to the policy, even if the database reveals a convicted criminal also is an illegal alien.

He has asked the city attorney to draft an amendment to the policy, which prohibits city employees from cooperating with federal immigration officials in the investigation or arrest of illegal aliens for civil or criminal violations of immigration law.

The City Council could consider the proposed amendment by September.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) each month adds 5,000 to 8,000 records to the national crime database, which contains about 250,000 records, said Scott Blackman, director of ICE’s Law Enforcement Support Center. The center provides 24-hour assistance to law-enforcement agencies investigating immigration matters.

ICE records include warrants for civil- and criminal-immigration violations such as previously deported felons or “absconders” — illegal aliens who are the subject of administrative warrants of removal, Mr. Blackman said.

Ms. Silber said she could not provide details on the potential amendment.

“My suspicion is that it wouldn’t be a total departure from the [current] policy, but there may be some adjustments,” she said.

In Montgomery and Prince George’s counties and the city of Rockville, officers are prohibited from asking people about their immigration status but will notify federal immigration officials if an existing warrant is found during a check of the NCIC database.

Takoma Park, like many other so-called “sanctuary cities,” enacted its policy to protect Central American refugees fleeing civil war.

Defenders of sanctuary policies often cite the importance of community policing and cooperation from victims and witnesses — especially in areas with large immigrant communities.

“We wanted to make sure that everyone knows that the city’s sanctuary law is still in effect,” Takoma Park Mayor Kathy Porter said. “The city’s position has been and continues to be that we will not enforce federal immigration law.”

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