Review : Illegals Increasingly Charged In Violent Crimes

Review: lllegals increasingly charged in violent crimes

By Freeman Klopott
The Washington Examiner (DC), March 28, 2010

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.'


'Secure Communities' netting results in Fairfax
By Freeman Klopott
The Washington Examiner (DC), March 28, 2010

Fairfax County's participation in a federal program that screens every inmate for immigration violations has caused the county to net a much higher percentage of suspected illegal immigrants that stand accused of a variety of lesser crimes than D.C. and Alexandria.

For example, nearly 7 percent of Fairfax County inmates that are suspected by Immigration and Customs Enforcement initially landed in jail because they were charged with driving while intoxicated.

In Alexandria, about 5 percent of the inmates with ICE warrants were brought in on a DWI charge. D.C. jail officials said none of their inmates with ICE warrants had DWI charges.

The statistics cover inmates who were in the jail during the last week of February.

Fairfax County is the only jurisdiction in the region that actively uses Secure Communities. Alexandria and the District work with ICE's Criminal Alien Program, through which local law enforcement identifies possible illegal immigrants to an ICE agent who then conducts an investigation, officials said.

Donald Kerwin, vice president of programming with the Migration Policy Institute, said DWI arrest statistics show the effect of Secure Communities is 'significant.'

'It indicates that the program [in Fairfax] is being used to screen out and deport people who commit less significant offenses,' Kerwin said.

Lt. Basilio Cachuela, a spokesman for Fairfax County's Sheriff's Office, said 'we're targeting more serious crimes, but [with Secure Communities] we find people arrested locally on lesser charges who are wanted for more serious crimes.'


MontCo jail chief says they don't track illegal immigrant inmates
By Freeman Klopott
The Washington Examiner (DC), March 28, 2010

Montgomery County denied a request from the Washington Examiner for statistics on local criminal charges for inmates held on illegal immigration warrants because the jail does not keep the information on electronic records, said county corrections director Arthur Wallenstein.

'We cannot deliver what you are seeking,' Wallenstein said in an e-mail. 'We have no computer that sorts by [ICE warrant] — it is simply not relevant.'

Said Jon Feere, a legal policy analyst for the Center for Immigration Studies: 'Montgomery County's apparent lack of interest in tracking crime associated with illegal immigration is consistent with Chief [Thomas] Manger's dangerous sanctuary policy. Turning a blind eye on these problems does not benefit public safety.'

Sanctuary cities are jurisdictions that do not enforce federal immigration laws.

Wallenstein did not respond to requests for comment regarding Feere's statement.