Sunday, March 28, 2010

Illegals increasingly charged in violent crimes

Illegals increasingly charged in violent crimes

By: Freeman KlopottExaminer Staff WriterMarch 28, 2010

(AP file)

The illegal immigrants being held in area jails are increasingly charged with violent crimes as law enforcement agencies focus on taking murderers, rapists and gang members off the streets, according to a review by the Washington Examiner.

Nearly half of the criminal charges filed against the 274 inmates who were being held during the last week of February on Immigration and Customs Enforcement warrants in Fairfax, Alexandria and D.C. jails related to violence, drugs and gang participation.

A senior ICE official said the agency has made targeting violent criminals who are in the country illegally a priority.

"By increasing our focus on taking dangerous criminal aliens off the streets and removing them from the country, we are addressing significant security vulnerabilities," said Enrique M. Lucero, director of ICE's Washington Field Office.

Illegal immigrants have been charged in a number of high-profile crimes in the region in recent months.

» Earlier this month, six suspected illegal immigrants were accused of gang raping a 30-year-old woman they abducted from an Alexandria nightclub.

» In late February, two suspected illegal immigrants brought an 11-year-old girl to a Silver Spring apartment where they both raped her, Montgomery County police said.

» On Christmas Day, authorities say, a suspected illegal immigrant stabbed his 25-year-old roommate to death during a heated early-morning argument in Rockville.

Lucero said ICE's focus on taking violent illegal immigrants off the street is part of the agency's central mission to make the streets safer.

But some immigration advocates are concerned that efforts to catch violent criminals could end up becoming a dragnet for all illegal immigrants in the area.

Donald Kerwin, vice president of programs at the Migration Policy Institute, said, "The fear is that local police will start to go after people who appear to be immigrants for common traffic tickets, and these people will be found to be unauthorized and put in deportation proceedings without having been convicted of anything."

Kerwin said the result of the increased attention on illegal immigrants, violent and nonviolent, will be that a system already "stretched to the breaking point" will fall into ruin.
"ICE has to focus on exercising discretion," he said.

Others say focusing strictly on rounding up violent criminals doesn't go far enough.
Jon Feere, a legal policy analyst at the Center for Immigration Studies, said although applying resources to the most serious crimes is important, letting smaller offenses go unpunished has its dangers.

"Law enforcement should contact ICE to make sure illegal aliens are removed from their jurisdiction at the first possible opportunity," Feere said. "Unfortunately, some law enforcement agencies will not report an illegal alien to ICE until after a violent attack occurs. Public safety is harmed by such policies."


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