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Immigration Reform: Is It All About Enforcement?

Sunday, 09 April 2006 12:00 AM

As Capitol Hill and the nation take a short Easter hiatus from the great immigration reform debate, some pundits and politicians are left wondering whether any tough new measures - if ever enacted - would be enforced.

Journalist and commentator, Jacob Weisberg, currently serving as editor of Slate magazine and a columnist for the Financial Times, fears that in the end "Bush will sign a law that threatens toughness but declines to apply it, that costs billions to administer but fails to reduce illegal immigration, and that creates massive new bureaucratic and legal headaches for everyone.

"This would be in keeping with past efforts, such as the big 1986 immigration reform bill, which promised serious sanctions against employers of illegals and has never been enforced..."

For his part, immigration reform crusader Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo., has for years been decrying the fact that another milestone federal immigration law continues to be violated by cities around the country.

Popularly called "sanctuary cities," these rebel municipalities have passed laws, statutes and provisions that restrict their own employees specifically and often the police departments from sharing information with the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

Explains Tancredo, "They say if you in fact stop or arrest someone and determine that that person is here illegally, you cannot tell the INS about that. You cannot aid the Immigration and Naturalization Service in upholding the law and enforcing the law, telling actual police departments to not aid in the enforcement of our law."

Specifically, the Federal law being skirted is section 642(a) of the 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act.

A long title, it lays down the following: "Notwithstanding any other provision of Federal, State or local law, a Federal, State or local government entity or official may not prohibit or in any way restrict any government entity or official from sending to or receiving from the Immigration and Naturalization Service information regarding the citizenship or immigration status, lawful or unlawful, of any individual."

"Now, that is a lot of words," says Tancredo. "That is the legalese way of saying the following: Look, the Federal Government operates immigration policy for the lands. That is our unique constitutional role. The State governments, city governments do not have any responsibility and have no authority to get involved with immigration policy.

"You can certainly argue, and I do, that the Federal Government has been AWOL, if you will, on enforcing its own laws, and that is undeniably true. But that does not really in any way, shape or form, give leave to cities and States across the nation to develop their own immigration policies, which is exactly what has been happening..."

Tancredo took the opportunity back during the passage of the Homeland Security appropriations bill to push forward the proposition that the law needed some teeth - and that if in fact a State or local government violates the law, they should pay some penalty.

His amendment was handily defeated.

The 1996 Act has continued to be notoriously disregarded - as if never enacted.

Most visible perhaps is the case of the Los Angeles Police Department's long standing Special Order 40, which instructs cops to basically disregard immigration violations.

When in the wake of the passage of the 1996 Act, cops in the combat zone Rampart Division cooperated with the INS to try to uproot violent illegal alien gang members from the community, local politicians jumped in with both feet.

The local pols criticized district police commanders for even allowing INS agents access to their station houses. In the end, the LAPD disciplined the officers who - though well-intentioned - had run afoul of Special Order 40.

Former New York City mayor Rudolph Giuliani was equally adamant that despite the passage of the 1996 Act, that city's sanctuary policy would remain intact, fighting the issue all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which did not see it the mayor's way.

Ironically, on September 5, 2001 - less than a week prior to the infamous 9/11 terrorist attacks - a city charter-revision committee ruled that New York could still require that its employees keep immigration information confidential to preserve trust between immigrants and government.

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As Capitol Hill and the nation take a short Easter hiatus from the great immigration reform debate, some pundits and politicians are left wondering whether any tough new measures - if ever enacted - would be enforced. Journalist and commentator, Jacob Weisberg,...
Immigration,Reform:,All,About,Enforcement?
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2006-00-09
Sunday, 09 April 2006 12:00 AM
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