Wednesday, March 05, 2008


Two weeks ago the Escondido Police Department began a program that targeted illegal immigrants who not only had committed crimes in the U.S. but also had been deported and returned. According to the North County Times piece on the subject (Feb. 23, “Escondido launches criminal illegal immigrant sweep’) the first three-day sweep netted 15 criminals from a list of 70 of the department’s “most frequent customers.”

The story observed that this was “the first time a local police force in the region has specifically targeted the criminal illegal immigrant population,” and noted that six officers were involved in the project.

Also included in the article was this criticism of the program by El Grupo spokesman, Bill Flores: “Escondido seems to be deliberately earning a reputation as being a racist community because of these kinds of policies.” No doubt the “policies” Flores had in mind also included the City Council’s unsuccessful 2006 attempt to prevent landlords from renting to illegal immigrants and the license-check traffic stops that have become common in the city.

In defense of the new policy Escondido Police Chief Jim Maher assured critics that the department isn’t looking for illegal immigrants who have violated “only” federal law and noted that traffic stops are inherently race-neutral. These critics might also be happy to know that (according to the article) only six illegal immigrants were turned over to the Border Patrol in 2007 due to the traffic checks. But presumably that’s six too many.

This front-page article about a new law enforcement response to foreign criminals who clearly scoff at laws well beyond the immigration variety generated a ton of web page comments—most of which were quite supportive of the police department. It also provoked a few comments that reflected Flores’ point of view.

For myself, I fail to see how a program of such limited magnitude and specific scope could generate such profound expressions of support or opposition. Targeting a few criminals who have been deported and returned is hardly a draconian policy. And unless some unspecified new penalties are involved, it isn’t clear why newly deported criminals won’t be back again—though perhaps in a locale where their mugs aren’t so well known.

I suspect the real point at issue here is the limited cooperation this new program exhibits between local police and Immigration and Customs Enforcement—a policy the City Council approved last spring that allows police officers to confirm the immigration status of persons detained even for minor offenses. Indeed, a Customs agent now has a desk at the department so officers can check a suspect’s “criminal deport status.”

For open-border advocates even this small degree of cooperation between ICE and local law enforcement violates a federal-local division of labor that they insist upon as fervently as ACLU lawyers insist on the recently invented separation of religion and state. Such individuals can only imagine the legal horrors that might arise if local police, ICE, and Border Patrol agents actually cooperated in earnest.

Another name for these horrors would be “border enforcement.”

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