Guest contributor Eric Byler weighs in on the Immigration Resolution, the tragic fatal wreck, and comprehensive immigration reform. He has been out in Phoenix as well as other areas, watching the immigration issue unfold before his eyes. He has talked to many people and heard a variety of opinions in his travels.
Any statements and opinions by guest contributors do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the administrators of moonhowlings.net.
The fact that this drunk driver was turned over to ICE in 2008, after the
“Immigration Resolution” was put into effect, brings up some real
questions about the wisdom of expensive policies at the local level
that redirect the time and resources of local law enforcement toward a
focus on immigration status rather than public safety. For 2 months
in the spring of 2008, the policy in Prince William County was very
similar to that proposed in Arizona’s SB 1070. But we corrected our
course on April 29, 2008 so that we check the status of ALL
individuals who are arrested for an underlying crime, rather than
people out on the streets who have not committed underlying crimes but
fit a “probable cause” standard. Just about everyone in our county
agrees that the repeal of the “probable cause” mandate made for a more
effective, more fiscally responsible, and more legally defensible
policy. Still it did not prevent this tragedy.
Until we have Comprehensive Immigration Reform, local jurisdictions
that send large volumes of people to ICE are essentially adding more
sand to the top of a funnel (to borrow an analogy made by Supervisor
John Jenkins, Sept. 18, 2007). The output at the bottom of the funnel
is slowed by the same limitations that existed before. Federal
authorities have limited time and limited resources, just like local
authorities do. And, they need to be cautious so as not to mistakenly
detain or deport a U.S. citizen or legal resident. The more voluminous
the workload for federal authorities, the harder it is for them to
determine who to prioritize, i.e. those who are truly a threat to
Comprehensive Immigration Reform will require all persons unlawfully
present to register with the federal government. This will reduce the
workload for ICE because, then, their focus will be those who choose
not to register — presumably a much smaller number, and, if we are primarily
concerned with finding people who may present a danger to society,
this will be a good place to start. But as long as Immigration and
Customs Enforcement is expected to process a hundred soccer moms and
janitors for every drunk driver or drug dealer, the system will remain
broken and cases like this will be more likely instead of less likely.
Local enforcement of federal immigration law can be effective if it
is done right — and many would say we’re doing it as well as it can be
done in Prince William County — but this case makes it clear that
local law enforcement cannot be the only solution.