Judge Slams Govt, Calls for immigration laws that allow local authorities to deal with illegal aliens.

Judge slams government

Calls for immigration laws that allow local authorities to deal with illegal aliens.

Thursday, August 09, 2007
The Express-Times

PALMER TWP. | A Pennsylvania Superior Court judge ripped the federal government's enforcement of immigration laws Wednesday, saying they allow too many illegal aliens to slip through the cracks.

Speaking before the local Kiwanis Club, Judge Correale F. Stevens said there have been several instances in which local police have arrested illegal immigrants only to be told by federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement to set them free. Stevens said ICE often doesn't prosecute illegal immigrants for small crimes such as parking tickets, traffic violations or low-level misdemeanors.

We learned in second grade that illegal means breaking the law,” Stevens said.

Stevens called for passage of federal legislation that would allow local and state police to arrest illegal immigrants without federal approval. It also would allow district attorneys to prosecute them and county judges to hold deportation hearings, he said.

“The U.S. Congress could easily amend the federal law so that police don't have to call and ask for permission to make arrests,” Stevens said. “Then they would go into court and let the county judges decide.”

It is rare for a sitting judge to make public comments on policy. Most jurists avoid such topics to avoid the appearance of impropriety should the issue come before them in court.

Several Kiwanis members said after the speech they would contact Rep. Charlie Dent, R-Lehigh Valley, about making changes to the federal immigration law.

“Unless you call Charlie Dent and tell him you're upset then probably nothing is going to happen,” said Chuck Lewis, a retired Easton Area High School government teacher. “The federal government is shirking its responsibility.”

Dent was out of the country Wednesday and unavailable for comment. His spokesman, Gregg Bortz, said the congressman supports “stronger domestic enforcement of our immigration laws” but any changes in the near future were unlikely.

“As far as we can tell … we're probably not going to see any immigration relief bills this year,” Bortz said.

Stevens, who joined the Superior Court in 1997, is a former district attorney and judge in Luzerne County, which has been the focus of national attention on the illegal immigration debate.

The city of Hazleton passed ordinances penalizing business owners who hired illegal immigrants and landlords who rented them places to live. A federal judge ruled last month that the ordinances were unconstitutional.

Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli also has been an outspoken critic of ICE and federal immigration policies. He was unavailable for comment Wednesday.

An ICE spokesman reached Wednesday did not return a message seeking comment.

Reporter Russ Flanagan can be reached at 610-258-7171 or by e-mail at rflanagan@express-times.com.