Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996


Section 287 (8 U.S.C. 1357) is amended by adding at the end the following:

''(g)(1) Notwithstanding section 1342 of title 31, United States Code, the Attorney General may enter into a written agreement with a State, or any political subdivision of a State, pursuant to which an officer or employee of the State or subdivision, who is determined by the Attorney General to be qualified to perform a function of an immigration officer in relation to the investigation, apprehension, or detention of aliens in the United States (including the transportation of such aliens across State lines to detention centers), may carry out such function at the expense of the State or political sub-division and to the extent consistent with State and local law.

States Can and Must Help Enforce Federal Immigration Law

Promises Made, Action Delayed Prepared

by the

Federation for American Immigration Reform

Recently, Congress has enacted laws designed to re-enlist the states in the battle against illegal immigration. The solution to illegal immigration reform requires the cooperation of all levels of government. Unfortunately, some existing provisions have not been implemented to facilitate a cooperative web of local, state, and federal enforcement vital to regaining control of our nation's borders.

Local Law Enforcement Cooperation State and local law enforcement agencies can work with the Immigration and Naturalization Service to enforce immigration law. Section 133 of the 1996 immigration reform bill passed into law (Pub.L. No. 104-208) created a unique network of cooperation in the enforcement of immigration law. For the first time, state and local law enforcement agencies had the ability to work in partnership with the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) to enforce immigration law. Section 133 provides a legal mechanism to implement the necessary cooperation between all levels of government to stop illegal immigration.

Specifically, Section 133 authorizes the U.S. Attorney General to train local police departments to identify and detain suspected illegal aliens. Although the Department of Justice has thus far taken little action in implementing even a pilot project under this authority, there is great potential for this project. City Councils should request to be a part of the program and have their law enforcement personnel trained so that they can arrest illegal aliens.

Government Employees Share Information with the INS

No longer can a state or local government prohibit its employees from sharing important information about illegal aliens with the INS. Section 642 of the 1996 immigration reform bill and Section 424 of the 1996 welfare reform bill (Pub. L. No. 104-193) protect the ability of employees of state and local governments to share information with the INS "regarding the citizenship or immigration status, lawful or unlawful, of any individual." This would in effect eliminate sanctuary cities and in theory should strike down any orders or local laws that prohibit local government officials from sharing information with the INS. Instead of welcoming the opportunity to help enforce our nation's immigration laws, some elected officials have fought them.

For example, New York City Mayor Rudy Guiliani sued the federal government, claiming that these provisions were unconstitutional. The Supreme Court rejected his claim and stated that these provisions "direct only that City officials and agencies be allowed, if they so choose, to share information with federal authorities . . . They only prevent the City from interfering with a voluntary exchange of information."

For the first time, welfare benefit providers, people tracking down "deadbeat dads," motor vehicle personnel, and countless other government officials can turn in illegal immigrants to the INS. This could be a valuable asset for the INS, but only if public employees are aware of their ability to do so. If state governments or agencies fail to notify their employees of this change, there is little probability that the employees will be aware of their new ability to help end illegal immigration.

States Can Require Proof of Identity

The 1996 immigration reform bill also authorized states to require that an applicant for state or government benefits show proof of eligibility, such as a U.S. passport, drivers' license, or resident alien card. Sheltering Illegal Aliens is a Felony Current law makes it a felony to aid, abet, conceal, or induce an alien to enter and/or reside in the United States illegally. And yet some actions by state government officials flirt with undermining exisiting federal immigration law.

Many state and local government agency officials are under orders to not ask a person's immigration status, because if they discover that they are here illegally it is a felony to shelter such an alien from detection or fail to disclose that fact to the INS. (With the new law mentioned above, these regulations prohibiting the disclosure of information to the INS concerning a person's immigration status are null and void, though most governments have not made it a priority to let their employees know their new rights.)

INS Screening for Criminal Aliens in Local Jails

In 1997, Congress passed H.R. 1493 (Pub. L. No. 105-141) directing the Attorney General to expand a California pilot project which placed INS agents in local government-owned jails to screen for criminal aliens. While the Attorney General determines the sites selected, one criterion is that the state or local government request to have an INS screening officer placed in the facility.

Improvement in State Identification Documents

Section 656 of the 1996 immigration reform bill requires States to revise their drivers' licensees to meet a federal standard to make them more fraud resistant and tamper-proof. This will help prevent the use of counterfeit state documents by illegal aliens. A year late, the Department of Transportation is just now issuing the regulations for states to use to comply with federal standards.

Give S.L. police INS powers

Last updated 08/23/1998, 12:01 a.m. MT

Deseret News editorial

Nobody knows the exact number of crimes committed by illegal aliens in the Salt Lake area, but anyone who examines the clues knows the figure is significant.

That became clear when the Utah Federal Immigration Prosecution Project began in 1997. The project used a beefed-up presence by the Immigration and Naturalization Service and other federal resources to double-check fingerprints and examine inmates in county jails and the state prison. So far, it has indicted 484 suspected dangerous illegal immigrants. More than 200 of those indictments have been attained this year alone.

When the City Council considers whether to grant limited INS authority to 20 city police officers in coming weeks, it can hardly overlook those figures. Nor can it overlook the heinous nature of many of the crimes these people commit.

Police still are searching for Mario Peraza-Armenta, for instance. He is a Mexican national wanted in connection with the brutal murder of Diane Purper, the mother of five who was killed while entering an I-15 onramp on Feb. 3, 1996. While Purper's death attracted a lot of attention, illegal aliens are responsible for many other deaths along the Wasatch Front, as well. The unfortunate fact is that many of the suspects have been in custody at various times but have not been identified. Peraza-Armenta, for instance, had been jailed several times under several different assumed names before Purper was killed.

The City Council has decided to hold a public hearing before making its decision. That's prudent. But public testimony shouldn't override strong arguments in favor of this added power. If the city agrees to turn 20 officers into quasi INS agents, the public would have another tool in the fight against this dangerous element.

As it is, officers who now arrest suspected illegal aliens have to wait for an INS agent to arrive and process the suspect. Often, that never happens because INS agents are unavailable.

Some council members, as well as some members of the public, worry this would give city police a license to be racist. People of color, they say, would be detained simply because of the way they look. This is no small concern, but there is scant reason to believe police would act this way. The program would allow police to adequately handle people they already are detaining as suspects in crimes.

City residents have no reason to believe police would go further than that, stopping people without probable cause. Such behavior is particularly unlikely considering the police chief, Ruben Ortega, is himself Hispanic. Any allegations of police racism should be investigated immediately and thoroughly.

But set aside race for a moment. No one can credibly deny that a group of illegal aliens is posing a significant risk to the local population. Federal officials say crackdowns send a strong message that reverberates back to the Mexican homeland where many of these criminals are spawned. That message is to stay away from Utah, and for the good of law-abiding residents of all colors it ought to be sent as clearly and forcefully as possible.

| | |