Washington, D.C. has become the latest in a growing number of mostly liberal states and localities that is ignoring U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), when ICE asks these states and localities to hold suspected criminal illegal aliens for ICE to pick up.
Last month, Washington, D.C. passed an ordinance stating that it would no longer cooperate with ICE detainers for most suspected criminal illegal aliens. ICE detainers are holds, up to two business days, that ICE puts on municipal prisoners that it wants to pick up because ICE suspects these prisoners are also in the country illegally.
Normally, when ICE places a detainer on a municipal prisoner, those prisoners that would finish a sentence, be it because they made bail or finished their prison sentences, would still be held in order for ICE to pick them up. In Washington, D.C., local officials will ignore ICE detainers for all suspected criminal illegal aliens except those that have committed “dangerous crimes.”
Washington, D.C.’s city council passed this ordinance in response to the ICE program, Secure Communities, coming into effect in their jurisdiction. Secure Communities is an ICE data sharing program that gives ICE fingertip access to the personal information of all individuals detained in the jails of localities that cooperate.
Proponents of rights for suspected illegal aliens have hailed Washington, D.C.’s policy as a step in the right direction. Many liberal politicians and activists believe that Secure Communities has been used to unfairly target otherwise law abiding suspected illegal aliens.
D.C. Council member Phil Mendelson told the Washington Post that Secure Communities was heavy-handed and that the ordinance passed would promote community harmony.
“That works against community policing,” Mendelson said. “We want people who are victims to report crime, and we want witnesses to report crime.”
ICE, for its, part issued a magnanimous statement, saying that the agency hopes to work with localities to insure public safety.
“ICE remains committed to working with our law enforcement partners to help make our communities safer by focusing our resources on public safety and national security threats, border security, and the integrity of the immigration system,” said Danielle Bennett, a spokesperson for ICE.
Not everyone agrees, however.
“This is about public safety,” said Brian McCann. “This ordinance ignores public safety.”
McCann should know. On June 7, 2011, his brother, Denny, was killed by an illegal alien driving drunk in Chicago. The driver, Saul Chavez, was arrested at the scene. During a previous drunk driving arrest in 2007, he admitted to police that he was in the country illegally.
McCann said that Cook County officials, which includes Chicago, assured him that Chavez would spend six to twelve years in prison before he was deported. Instead, on September 7, 2011, Cook County passed its own ordinance in which the county refused to cooperate with ICE on any detainers, even repeat offenders like Chavez.
In late November, Chavez was able to post bond. The County ignored the ICE detainer placed on Chavez and Chavez was let go. He’s since gone on the run and hasn’t been seen since his release.
In November 2011, Santa Clara County passed an ordinance similar to the one in Cook County. In Santa Clara County, there have been no high profile incidents like in the case of Chavez.
In March however, ICE performed a sweep of 63 suspected illegal aliens in Santa Clara County. All 63 were suspected criminal illegal aliens that were released by Santa Clara County even though they had ICE detainers on them.
Those picked up in the sweep included a number of suspected drug dealers, those with gang ties, and at least one suspected illegal alien charged with child rape.
In the State of New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order last year effectively ending cooperation between the state and ICE on detainers. One suspected criminal illegal alien with a detainer was Luis Rodriguez-Flamenco, 24. Rodriguez-Flamenco was picked up for a burglary and subsequently ICE placed a detainer on him. That detainer was ignored when Rodriguez-Flamenco posted bond. In November 2011, Rodriguez-Flamenco allegedly stabbed to death 45-year-old Kathleen Byham outside a Wal-Mart in Albion, N.Y.
The State Senate of California also recently passed a bill that will significantly limit cooperation with ICE, if it’s signed into law, on detainers in all jails in the state.
Meanwhile, a group associated with George Soros’ Open Society Institute has recently put together a how-to guide designed to give localities a number of options for ways to avoid cooperating with ICE detainers.
The Department of Justice has made a series of high profile suits against the states of Arizona and South Carolina following the states' passage of tough anti-illegal immigration laws. DOJ did not respond to a phone call for comment from FrontPage as to whether it intends to similarly sue any of these jurisdictions.
Both ICE Director John Morton and DHS Director Janet Napolitano have made repeated threats to Cook County to cut off federal funds if the country continues with its ordinance, but so far those threats have not been followed through on.
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