Worrying About the Wrong Citizens

By Jessica M. Vaughan on December 16, 2011

Opponents of Secure Communities have opened up a new front in their campaign to have the program ended. The new rallying cry against SC is that it is leading to the wrongful arrest of some unknown but deeply disturbing number of U.S. citizens. It all started with the release of a deeply flawed study from a group of anti-SC activists, which I've written about with my colleague W.D. Reasoner.

Now, as if to counter our challenge to their disingenuous claims of wrongful U.S. citizen arrests, the opposition's media standard bearer, the New York Times, has published a story about two U.S. citizens whose crimes and other foolish actions led to their incarceration, from which they were not easily able to bail out due to questions about their citizenship status. Reports the Times:

In a spate of recent cases across the country, American citizens have been confined in local jails after federal immigration agents, acting on flawed information from the Department of Homeland Security databases, instructed the police to hold them for investigation and possible deportation.

Sounds scary, doesn't it? The reporter, Julia Preston, goes on to say, "Detentions of citizens are part of the widening impact on Americans, as well as on immigrants, of President Obama's enforcement strategies . . . ." Mercifully, Preston doesn't cite the defective Warren Institute study that we've refuted, but she has found another study by a Northwestern University professor claiming the same thing. Funny thing is, I took a look at that study, and it acknowledges that nearly all of these cases involve U.S. citizens who were detained because they signed sworn statements saying they were aliens, probably trying to be deported instead of prosecuted for something.

ICE Director John Morton gave Preston his usual half-hearted lame defense of his agents: "We don't have the power to detain citizens." Actually, they do; some of the immigration and customs laws – the ones against smuggling and fraud, for example – apply to citizens as well as aliens. Just yesterday, ICE sent out a press release about its arrest of Chicago Bears wide receiver Sam Hurd, a U.S. citizen from San Antonio, for drug dealing.

What Morton failed to mention is that the citizens who were detained by California law enforcement agencies were arrested for local crimes, and local officials acted with appropriate caution in holding them for ICE, because of legitimate questions about their citizenship that came to light because of the citizens' criminal behavior. One was a prior deportee who was charged with shoplifting (which he blamed on his young child – nice!) and the other was charged with an unspecified misdemeanor, but flagged under Secure Communities because she had stupidly alternated between a Spanish and U.S. passport when traveling in and out of the country (no doubt embarrassed to be an American, until she gets in a jam overseas and needs U.S. consular officers to bail her out of a foreign jail). Not exactly sympathetic cases when you peel back the layers of the onion.

Then Morton offered the news that he is introducing new forms for agents to use to when issuing a detainer, which is a request from ICE to a local law enforcement agency to hold someone that ICE believes might be removable. For some reason the forms will be printed in several languages. (What, even cops don't speak English anymore?) My ICE sources tell me that these new forms are yet another move from the internal ICE ACLU unit (the Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties) to try to make it harder for agents to work with local law enforcement to remove criminal aliens (more on that in a future blog).

And, Morton said he will set up a hotline for detainees to reach their advocates within the agency. C'mon, if Morton can find the taxpayer money to set up a complaint line for criminal aliens, then he also should find the money to set up an office to help out the Americans who lose family members, businesses, and jobs to criminal aliens. Families like the McCanns of Chicago, who still mourn the loss of Dennis McCann, who in June of this year was killed by an illegal alien drunk driver (with priors), and who has just fled after release from Cook County jail, which ICE allows to remain a sanctuary from immigration law enforcement. It took the McCanns days of phone calls and the intervention of Rep. Joe Walsh's office just to get an anonymous ICE agent to confirm that ICE had issued a detainer on their brother's killer. The McCanns, and all victims of alien crime, deserve more of our government's attention.

But don't hold your breath waiting for the Justice Department to look into Cook County's repeated egregious obstruction of justice. Not while there are criminal aliens to protect.