Looking to One's Own Backyard

By W.D. Reasoner on January 2, 2012

Quite recently, Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama took to the Senate floor to chastise Sen. Dick Durban of Illinois, after the latter criticized the state of Alabama for having passed an immigration enforcement statute.

As Sen. Sessions pointedly reminded his colleague, it's best to clean up your own back yard before flinging out gratuitous comments about someone else's state of affairs. Sen. Sessions made direct reference to the fact that within Illinois, Cook County has passed an ordinance prohibiting the Sheriff's Office from honoring detainers placed against criminal aliens by officers from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) bureau known as Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

For those who aren't familiar with the term, a detainer (or a "hold" in everyday parlance) is the mechanism used by police agencies everywhere – not just immigration enforcers – to notify other law enforcement departments who have arrested an individual that the agency which has issued the detainer wishes to take custody of the individual once he is ready for release by the arresting department.

As I and other colleagues from the Center have observed, this questionable ordinance has resulted in the release of a substantial number of felons back into the streets of Chicago and other places within Cook County, to the detriment of its citizens.

I say "questionable ordinance" because not only does it offend common sense and diminish community safety, it substantially impedes federal officers who are trying to perform their sworn duty to enforce the nation's immigration laws. One might also reasonably construe it to be a violation of federal criminal statutes which prohibit aiding and abetting, or harboring and shielding from detection, aliens who are in the United States illegally. (See, specifically, Title 8, United States Code, Section 1324(a)(1)(A)(iii) and (v).)

In any other administration except this one, passage of the ordinance would likely have been met with a federal lawsuit seeking to enjoin the sheriff from complying with it. But – wink, wink, nod, nod – there's not a chance of that happening under the leadership of the current White House, replete as it is with Chicago pols, notwithstanding the persistent noise emanating from ICE and other parts of DHS about their "tough" immigration enforcement policies.

No jurisdiction refusing to honor ICE detainers (Cook County isn't the only place determined to poke a sharp stick in the eye of federal immigration authorities) has yet experienced sanctions, or any adverse reaction whatever, from DHS or the Department of Justice (DOJ). In fact, it is only those state and local governments which have taken steps to assist the federal authorities in their immigration enforcement efforts that have anything to fear – they have been subject to lawsuits, investigations, termination of pre-existing memoranda of understanding with ICE, and, in the case of Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Ariz., a flat public statement from ICE Director John Morton that his agency would refuse to cooperate with the Sheriff's Office – or even provide information about aliens who are arrested for crimes. This is tantamount to the federal government itself punishing the community, and making it less safe, by not giving police officers important and potentially critical information about an arrested individual's true identity and background, when it exists in federal data repositories.

Who gains from this short-sighted approach where those who thumb their nose at federal immigration enforcement are ignored (or, perversely, are rewarded with fat State Criminal Alien Assistance Program (SCAAP) checks) while ICE's would-be friends in the state and local law enforcement community are pushed away, scorned, or castigated? Certainly not the public.

The most recent evidence of this administration's topsy-turvy view of the world of immigration enforcement came a few days ago, when Director Morton announced changes to the way detainers will be filed by ICE officers, and changes to the detainer form itself. So, you're asking, did he make it harder for state and local agencies to flout federal law? Did he toughen up the rules and procedures, consistent with departmental and agency rhetoric, in order to make streets safer for the law abiding? Absolutely not. This administration's immigration enforcement policies emanate from a looking-glass world where words do not have their usual meaning. Instead, ICE has, among other things:

  • added a requirement that those agencies willing to honor their detainer provide a copy of it to the subject in custody,

  • established a 24x7 hotline for aliens who object to being the subject of a detainer (staffed by interpreters in multiple languages), and

  • included verbiage in several languages advising these aliens where they may file formal civil liberties complaints.

While no thinking person can rightly object to ensuring that all individuals, even incarcerated aliens, are treated lawfully and that their rights are scrupulously observed, none – none – of the announced changes was required by law, regulation, or court decision. They appear to have been solely for the purpose of pandering to the left – at a time, suspiciously, when the elections loom large and White House political operatives must be thinking hard about preserving their "base".

But to my way of thinking, there is something pathetically Dickensian about the way ICE has continuously watered down its enforcement efforts, policies, and practices in the hopes of a kind word of approval from the left. ("Please, sir, may I have some more?") I hope Mr. Morton is mature enough to realize that these concessions will not be enough. They will only whet the appetite of those who denigrate immigration law enforcement, because their ultimate goal is the elimination of any effective enforcement whatever.

What is more, there is something lopsided and sadly out of kilter about the ICE/DHS approach. Where are the programs, hotlines, ombudsmen, and advocates who can speak out on behalf of victims of crimes perpetrated by illegal aliens – people like the Bologna family of San Francisco; the Byham family of Orleans County, N.Y.; the McCann family of Cook County, Ill.; the Denice family of Milford, Mass.; the Moore family of Lake County, Fla.? They are curiously missing from the equation. All of them have lost loved ones to crimes committed by illegal aliens (the Bolognas lost three: a father and his two sons, shot to death by an alien gang member), and no one in officialdom seems to care. How can that be?

I suspect this has come to pass because the Obama administration is determined to repress any manner of immigration enforcement, including basic federal-state-local cooperative effort, that disrupts the illegal-alien-as-victim storyline.

That storyline, after all, is crucial to the amnesty agenda of open-borders advocates, many of whom have ties to this White House. And nothing skews it like the reality that not all illegal aliens are victims; some are, in fact, felons who prey indiscriminately on others in the community, victimizing citizen and alien alike.

So my suggestion to the Director of ICE is this: instead of leaping on the Maricopa County scrum, take Sen. Session's excellent advice and look to your own backyard, Mr. Morton; look to your own back yard.