IMMIGRATION PROBLEMS: Sanctuary Policy and Crime
(House of Representatives - July 9, 2003)
The SPEAKER pro tempore (Mr. Gerlach). Under the Speaker's announced policy of January 7, 2003, the gentleman from Colorado (Mr. Tancredo) is recognized for one-half of the remaining time until midnight, or, by the Chair's calculation, 37 1/2 minutes.
Mr. TANCREDO. Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to address the House this evening on an issue of concern I think to me and to many people in this country.
The best way to introduce the topic I think is to discuss what happened here on this floor not too long ago when, on June 24, I offered an amendment to the Homeland Security appropriations bill that would have prohibited any appropriated funds from going to any city that has an official policy of prohibiting its police officers from cooperating with immigration law enforcement. Such policies are in clear violation of existing Federal law, yet that amendment was defeated.
It was really one of the most bizarre episodes I think that I have been involved with since I have been in the Congress, when you propose a measure that simply says that the States and cities in this country should actually abide by the law, and, that if they do not, there would be some penalty attached to the violation of that law. That is really all it said. And yet the amendment failed.
Now, let me back up and explain a little more about this whole thing and how it occurred, because it tells us something about where we are, I think, as a Nation, certainly where we are as a Congress, in our attempts to try and bring some sanity to the issue of immigration and immigration reform. We are a long way from that desired goal.
Let us start with this. The Federal law being violated by cities is section 642(a) of the 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act. A long title. It says 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. 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.
So this law that was put in place in 1996 says, you know what, States, cities? You cannot do that. You cannot establish your own immigration policy.
Now, the amendment that I was going to offer that evening was an amendment to the Homeland Security Act; it was the appropriations bill for homeland security. It was an amendment that simply applied if a State is in fact violating this law. Again, I have to go back and say this law is on the books today. I did not create it. I was not even here in the Congress when it was passed. But it is on the books.
There is one tiny problem with this law, and that is that there is no enforcement mechanism. So it says you should not do this, but, of course, there is nothing that is bad that will happen to you, city, State, locality, if you violate the law.
So I was going to take the opportunity during the passage of the Homeland Security appropriations bill to say that we are going to put some teeth into this law, and that if in fact a State or local government violates the law, they should pay some penalty; that we in fact as a Congress should say to the Nation that the laws of the Nation should be upheld. That was it, pure and simple.
Now, as I say, I knew at the time that the amendment would probably not pass, and I was not surprised by its defeat. But it is important for this body and the Congress to understand what is at stake when we talk about these so-called sanctuary policies and the impact of these policies on public safety.
Now, let me explain what sanctuary policies are and sanctuary cities. Cities across the land, because of local pressure, because of a variety of reasons, have passed laws, statutes, provisions that restrict their own employees specifically and often the police departments from sharing information with the INS. 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. This is bizarre, it is incredible, but it is happening. And they call themselves sanctuary cities.
Some of these cities, by the way, actually allow people to vote, even if they are not citizens of the United States, even if they are here illegally. All they require is that you show some proof of residency in that city. That is all. Bring your utility bill and you can vote. There are places in Maryland, there are places up and down the East Coast. Again, pretty bizarre stuff, but absolutely true.
Now, this House and this Congress must act to bring these cities and other jurisdictions into compliance with the law. That is why I will continue to offer this amendment on other legislation. A recent Zagby poll revealed that over 70 percent of Americans wanted our immigration laws enforced. I assure you that the same Americans want criminal aliens off the streets and out of our country.
My amendment did not require any city to do anything other than obey existing Federal law. More than a dozen major cities and the State of Oregon are now acting in open violation and defiance of the 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigration Control Act. These cities are Los Angeles; San Francisco; San Jose; San Diego; Seattle; Houston; Durango, Colorado; Chicago; Portland, Maine; and Portland, Oregon. These cities and the State of Oregon have adopted official policies ordering law enforcement officials to not obey the law.
Can you believe that? Let me repeat it. The leaders in these cities take an oath of office just like every Member of this body, a solemn oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States and to uphold the laws of the land. Yet these same local officials are directing their law enforcement officers to ignore the Federal law and to not cooperate or communicate with immigration authorities.
Now, I can understand the argument that is heard from some local officials and indeed from some law enforcement leaders. They say a city does not want to have its police officers using all their time to assist immigration officers in locating and arresting every single illegal alien residing in their locality. In many cities, the local police would have no time left for routine law enforcement or apprehending thieves, murderers or rapists. I can understand that concern, and I can understand them blaming the Federal Government for allowing so many illegal immigrants to enter this country.
But all the amendment said that I introduced, all it said was that cities could not prohibit its law enforcement officers from contacting and cooperating with immigration authorities. The amendment does not require every local police officer to call the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement for every arrest or traffic stop. In fact, my amendment does not require anyone to do anything. It merely says cities cannot prohibit their law enforcement officers from communicating with the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement when they see a valid law enforcement reason for doing so.
Local law enforcement officers need to have that freedom to access and use immigration data in the performance of their routine duties. We are not suggesting that local police departments become mere adjuncts of the immigration service. We are, however, suggesting that law enforcement agencies do have an obligation under existing Federal law to identify criminal aliens and turn them over to the immigration authorities for deportation.
Why is this so important? It is important because there are over 80,000 criminal aliens loose on the streets; and these sanctuary laws, as they are called by their proponents, prevent local police from apprehending these criminals until after they have committed another crime.
I am not talking now about all of the 9 to 13 million illegal aliens in the country. I am only talking about the illegal aliens who are already on the ICE list. ICE is the acronym for Bureau of Immigration and Custom Enforcement. They are on the ICE list for deportation.
I am only talking about the approximately 375,000 absconders, aliens who are here illegally, who have been issued a final order for removal, that is deportation, by a Federal judge. Those names are now on the ICE immigration violators file, and that information is now available to law enforcement officers through the NCIC database, the National Criminal Information Center, which all law enforcement agencies use.
I am most concerned about the 80,000 illegal aliens on this list of absconders who have been ordered deported because they have already committed crimes against our citizens. Why should local law enforcement officers be told by politicians to not identify these people when they come across them in the course of their routine duties? Why should local law enforcement officers not arrest and detain these criminals before they can commit another crime?
I think law enforcement does want these people to get off the streets. It is the politicians who are putting handcuffs on them, and it is up to us to remove those handcuffs.
Cities that have these policies are showing contempt, not only for Federal immigration law. They are showing contempt for the rights of their own citizens and for the citizens of neighboring towns and villages. They are saying in effect we care more about the rights of criminal aliens than the rights of our own citizens.
Let me tell you how this practice works. When a police officer, sheriff's deputy, or State highway patrolman makes a traffic stop or otherwise has cause to question an individual whom he suspects of committing a crime, the officer routinely runs the individual's name through his on-board computer.
Now, through this computer he has an instant access to the National Criminal Justice Database, called the NCIC that I mentioned before. If there is a criminal warrant outstanding for this person's arrest from any agency elsewhere, either Federal, State or local, the person is normally arrested and booked.
With regard to identifying criminal aliens subject to deportation, until recently a law enforcement officer would have to place a telephone call to the INS data center, law enforcement support center, and the center would tell the officer if the individual's name is on the INS list for detainer. A detainer is an official request from one law enforcement agency to another that the person be held in custody. In a sanctuary city the police would not be allowed to make that call to the center, and the criminal alien would go free.
Now, the good news is that very soon the police officer or deputy will not have to make that separate call. Information will be in the computer via the NCIC. Moreover, local jurisdictions can get partial reimbursement for the cost of holding the illegal alien in a jail through a Federal program called SCAAP, all these acronyms, I am sorry for that, the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program.
The sanctuary city phenomenon presents an amazing paradox. Under our legal system, under the rule of recall that is the bedrock principle of our Nation, any person of any rank or any amount of wealth can be arrested if he has a warrant outstanding. A Congressman? Yes. A nationally renowned sports hero? Yes. A veteran who holds the Medal of Honor? Yes.
If there is a warrant outstanding, each of these citizens is subject to arrest by the lowest ranking police officer in any jurisdiction of this Nation. But in any city that has a so-called sanctuary policy, if you are an illegal alien with a felony record and a deportation order signed by a judge, you will not be questioned about your immigration status and you will not be arrested.
This is incredible. It is just absolutely unbelievable. But it is the state of affairs in this country.
If you are an ordinary, tax-paying citizen of Portland, Oregon, or Chicago, or Houston, and you fail to make a court appearance, you will have an FTA on your record, and you will be arrested for failure to appear. But if you are an illegal alien who has committed two felonies and are under a detainer from Immigration and Customs because of your criminal activity, you will not be arrested. If you are stopped and questioned in these cities, the police officer is not allowed to communicate with ICE to find the information or use that information.
Why is this so important? It is important because there are over 80,000 criminal aliens loose on our streets, and these sanctuary laws, as they are called by their proponents, prevent local police from apprehending these criminals until after they have committed another crime.
Now, I am not talking now about all of the 9 million to 13 million aliens in the country illegally; I am only talking about the illegal aliens who are already on the ICE list for deportation. I am tonight talking only about the approximately 375,000 absconder aliens who are here illegally and who have been issued a final order for removal; that is, deportation by a Federal judge. Those names are on the ICE immigration violators file, and that information is now available to law enforcement through the NCIC. I am most concerned with the 80,000 illegal aliens on the list of absconders who have been ordered deported because they have already committed crimes against our citizens.
Now, the shocking truth is that there are tens of thousands of criminal felons serving jail or prison time in these sanctuary cities who will not be turned over to ICE because the political leaders of those cities have a policy that law enforcement cannot cooperate with the INS and cannot share information with immigration authorities. Criminals will be released instead of being picked up by ICE and deported. This will happen not because ICE does not have the resources to detain them; that happens too often in too many places, but that is another issue. It will happen because the politicians in those cities have determined that this is a politically correct thing to do.
Now, I am coming to a very important point about the numbers. There are two different numbers we need to understand when talking about illegal aliens who are criminals and subject to deportation. Again, the number 80,000 that I and most lawmakers have been using for the past year is not a true number of illegal aliens who are dangerous criminals. The 80,000 number is the number of felons among the approximately 375,000 individuals on the INS absconders list. But, tens of thousands of illegal aliens with felony convictions are released from State and local correctional facilities every year and never get on the absconder list. They are theoretically placed on a detainer list, but these people are not always picked up after they are released from jail. This happens because there is a tragic lack of coordination between correctional authorities and ICE. This is a gap in our criminal justice system, and it must be fixed as quickly as possible.
To paint the picture in the cleanest possible terms, I have collected the following data from several State penal systems. Here are the estimated numbers of illegal aliens in some of the State correctional facilities of a few States with these sanctuary cities. California prison population, 160,000; estimated illegal, 18,697. Colorado, illegal aliens out of a population of 18,000 in prison: 748. It goes on like that. The percentage of prisoners who are illegal aliens with detainers in these 6 States ranges from 4 percent in the States of Washington to 11.6 percent in California. The weighted average is about 9 percent. If the percentage is adjusted for the documented INS undercount of deportable aliens, the percentage is 50 percent higher. Thus, the average percentage of illegal aliens in our State prison population in these States is about 14.5 percent. That means that for the country as a whole, it is safe to say that at least 10 percent of the Nation's State prison population consists of deportable criminal aliens.
When these criminals are released from incarceration, they are subject to deportation, and when identified by the INS, their names are placed on the detainer list. The problem is that this does not always happen, as I say, and, in fact, it happens less than 50 percent of the time. Thus, the alarming reality is that at the present time, thousands of these criminal aliens are released back into our society and will not be deported until they commit another crime, if even then. There is no effective system in place to take them into custody as they finish their prison terms and deport them. In other words, the absconder list neither contains the thousands of additional criminal aliens who have detainers, but have not yet had a hearing and received a final order to qualify them for the absconder list, nor the additional thousands of criminal aliens who have never made it onto the detainer list in the first place.
Fortunately, there is some good news. The Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement is now implementing a new database management system that will close the gap between the NCIC database for criminals and the immigration database for illegal aliens who have been ordered deported. The NCIC system used by local law enforcement will now include the names of criminal aliens from the immigration violators file and the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. If the name of the individual is in the immigration violators file, it will also be in the NCIC. The officer can then arrest and detain the illegal alien as a criminal whom a judge has ordered deported. The police officer will not need to place a separate telephone call to the immigration system and waste precious minutes or hours waiting for a reply. Information will be right there at his fingertips through the NCIC.
As I explained, there is a huge gap in the system for identifying criminal aliens and getting them listed into the NCIC database. Whether those gaps are policy
issues, they need to be fixed, but at least there is now a way for local law enforcement to readily access immigration violators file.
Today the critical policy issue we in Congress must settle is should the local police officer have that information. Should the local police officers be able to arrest and detain criminal aliens who have committed crimes in this country and they are on the list for deportation, or should cities be allowed to say, no, we do not want our officers to have that information; we want those criminal aliens to go free.
What are the consequences of allowing cities to be so politically correct that they can thumb their nose at the immigration law enforcement? The consequences are that we will have a growing list of victims of criminal aliens who should have been removed from our streets before the crime was ever committed. Whose side shall we choose to take? The rights of the criminals who, by law, are subject to deportation to be free to roam our streets, or the rights of citizens to be free from criminal attack? It is really purely that simple.
In the 19th century this idea that a State or locality, to interpose itself between the citizens and Federal Government was known as the nullification doctrine. It died in 1865. But it has been reborn not to protect the rights of slave owners, but to protect the privileges of criminal aliens. The last time I looked, the immigration policy was the province of the Federal Government, not the city of Los Angeles or the city of Chicago or the city of Portland, Maine, and it is the responsibility of this House and this Congress to remind those cities of this fact. But if these cities want to have their own immigration policy and provide sanctuary for criminal aliens, then they should not look to the American taxpayer to subsidize their efforts.
There is good reason to take a special look at these so-called sanctuary cities like Los Angeles, because it is the largest city in the largest State of the Nation. A few years ago, the INS found that 40 percent of illegal immigrants go to California, and other cities have shown that a third of their illegal aliens go to Los Angeles. Thus, what happens in Los Angeles directly affects the rest of this country.
It happens that in 2000, the County of Los Angeles did a thorough study of the impact of criminal aliens on the Los Angeles County jail system. They recently shared a copy of this report with me. Among other things, they found that, first, during the decade of 1990 to 2000, the number of illegal aliens in the county jail system doubled from 11 to 23 percent. The cost impact on the county jail system also doubled from 75 million to 150 million. This is only the cost of jail administration and does not include the cost of routine police patrols and investigative activities.
The Federal SCAP program, that State Criminal Assistance Program that reimburses local jails for the cost of detention being held for deportation does not adequately cover all on the costs. The recidivism rate among criminal aliens deported is 40 percent. That means 40 percent of them return and commit more crime. There are a significant number of Federal prosecutions by the U.S. Attorney in Los Angeles against recidivist criminal aliens. Only 350 such cases were prosecuted in 1998 compared to 2,400 in San Diego and 3,000 in Phoenix, which is a much smaller city.
A GAO study in 1997 concluded that the INS process for identifying and processing criminal aliens in jail and subject to deportation was so flawed and underfunded that more than half of the criminals who should be deported are not, and they are released back into society. The percentage of jail inmates in Los Angeles who are deportable aliens rose from 11 percent to 17 percent in June 1995 and 23 percent in January of 2000.
One INS study cited by the Los Angeles County report showed that INS identified only 65 percent of the inmates who were, in fact, subject to deportation orders and thus placed on a detainer list. That means that all of the numbers of inmates on the whole list need to be adjusted upward by one half to get to the true number of aliens in the penal system who are subject to deportation.
It is fair to extrapolate that out of the approximately 145,000 prisoners released each year by the Los Angeles County jail system about 35,000 are deportable aliens. And if INS deports less than half of those, that means that from Los Angeles alone over 18,000 criminal aliens are released into society instead of being deported. Over the past decade that is 180,000 criminals released and not deported.
It is fair to speculate that for the Nation as a whole this number is over 500,000 over the past decade, a half million criminal aliens who should have been deported but instead were released into society to commit more crimes.
Now, I have brought with me tonight a few examples of the crimes and their victims. Before I turn to those victims, I wanted to make one further point. It is not just the citizens of Los Angeles or Chicago or Houston that have their rights in jeopardy by these so-called sanctuary policies. You might say, well, the citizens of Chicago make that choice if they let their city officials make that policy; let them live with the consequences.
But all we know is that we have an open and mobile society. If a criminal is stopped and questioned and released in Chicago because his immigration status was not checked, tomorrow that criminal alien may be in Cincinnati or Nashville or St. Louis. Next month he may be in Tulsa or Topeka or Springfield. I believe, and I believe that the people of the United States think that the political leaders of Chicago and Los Angeles and Houston do not have the right to make that decision for them, to turn criminals loose on the city of Topeka or Tulsa.
Now, I want to show my colleagues some recent examples of the failures of immigration law enforcement. These are victims of criminal aliens who should have been deported but were not or they were deported and came back through our porous borders. Now, I think it is important, what I have done tonight is provide an awful lot of statistics and I know that is pretty boring. People glaze over at that kind of thing, too many percentages and that kind of thing.
So what I would like to do here is put a human face on these statistics. We have talk about the fact that we have people in the United States being victimized by criminal aliens here and that it does not happen just once or twice. These are not isolated incidents, not just aberrations. There are literally hundreds of thousands of people in this country who have been victimized by illegal aliens. They were victims really of our porous borders. They are victims of the policy we run in this country that allows people to come into the country at their will.
Let us look at Tanee Natividad, 16-year-old Phoenix high school student murdered by Max LaMadrid who escaped across the border into neighboring Mexico. A Phoenix television station tracked him down without difficulty. They found him enjoying a drink in a bar, unconcerned about Mexican law enforcement. Like most victims of illegal aliens, young Tanee was an American citizen of Mexican decent. The television news reporter who located the murderer in Mexico found over 100 similar cases of violent criminals from the Phoenix area alone who have fled into Mexico.
Why do they go into Mexico? Because Mexico will not extradite to the United States. They say they will not send someone back here to face the death penalty. Now they say they will not send back here to face life in prison. They call it cruel and unusual punishment. Let me tell you, 20 years in a Mexican prison compared to life in prison in the United States, anybody would take the life in prison. It is ridiculous to believe that the country of Mexico cares so much about the rights of these criminals. They are really doing it frankly as a way to get at the United States. They are still negotiating the issue of amnesty for illegals, and here they want to use this as a negotiating ploy. So they refuse to send back criminals who fled to Mexico, who see Mexico as a haven, who are able to escape our laws and thumb their noses at our law enforcement people and at the relatives of the victims they leave behind.
David March, a Los Angeles County Sheriff's Deputy who was killed in 2002 after pulling over a car on a routine traffic stop in the suburban Los Angeles community of Irwindale. The driver was a dangerous Mexican drug dealer, Armando Garcia, who had been deported twice and had a long history of violent crimes including two attempted murders, had been deported twice, came back across our porous borders, came back to kill this law enforcement officer. Shot him once in the stomach as he walked up to the car. Then he got out, Mr. Garcia got out of the car and shot him twice in the head.
Mr. Garcia should have never been in the country. Remember, he had already been deported twice. Guess where he is? He is back in Mexico. All 50 State attorneys general have written to Attorney General Ashcroft and Secretary of State Colin Powell demanding that this country negotiate a new extradition treaty with Mexico to allow criminals like Garcia to stand trial in the United States for their acts. So far their pleas have gone unheeded.
These are real people. They were victims of illegal immigrants in this country. They leave behind families who are mourning to this day. I met with Mrs. March last month. I saw the tears in her eyes. I stood at a memorial, a wall that was built on this curb in Irwindale, California, in an industrial section of town. Probably 99 percent of people that go by do not really see it. It is relatively small, but Mrs. March sees it when she goes by to put a new flower on the grave and to kneel down beside that grave and to say a prayer for her husband, and to ask for some justice because she knows her husband's killer is living in Mexico. They know where he is. The Mexican authorities know where he is.
These are the real faces. These are not statistics.
Sister Helen Chaska, murdered in the summer of 2002 by being strangled with her rosary beads. She was also raped, as was another nun who accompanied her on her walk. She was in Klamath Falls, Oregon, doing missionary work. Her accused murderer is Maximiliano Esparza. Esparza had been convicted in 1988 of robbery and kidnapping in Los Angeles, served 3 years of a 6-year term and was paroled in 1992. By law this man should have been deported after serving time for a violent felony. But the INS allowed him to remain in our country. The INS has a responsibility for Sister Helen Chaska's death. And if there were a way to bring a suit to bring some criminal action against the INS, I wish that the survivors, that the friends and relatives of these people could do it. Because I am telling you right now that I believe our government has the responsibility and the blood of these people is to an extent on the hands of this government for its policy of allowing illegal aliens to enter this country over and over and over again without fear of being arrested, without fear of being returned to their own country and especially without fear of being stopped as they try to get back into the United States.
Jennette Tamayo, a 9-year-old San Jose, California, resident who was kidnapped on June 6 from her home at 4 o'clock in the afternoon. A surveillance video helped identify the kidnapper's car, and the abductor was apprehended a few days later after young Tamayo walked into a Palo Alto video store and asked for help. The accused kidnapper has used aliases, among them Enrique Alvarez, and had been identified as an illegal alien.
These are just four that I bring to the attention of the body tonight, just four. There are thousands, in fact, there are hundreds of thousands, hundreds of thousands of victims of our open borders policy. These are just four, and night after night, when I have the ability to address the House, I am going to bring more of these stories. I am going to introduce these faces to more of my colleagues and to those people who may be watching C-SPAN tonight because I want them to understand that the picture of illegal immigration that is portrayed by most of the media, that illegal immigration is nothing more than just a hardworking family coming here looking for a good life, same thing that all of our grandparents, great grandparents, great great grandparents, the same thing that they came here for.
That is one picture. That is one picture of illegal immigration, and certainly a vast majority of people who are coming do, in fact, fit that profile, but it is only one picture of illegal immigration.
Here is another that is not shown to the general public, that no one wants you to know about. They want to keep these people isolated, separated, so that people think this is only an aberration, it only happens here or there, and yes, is it not too bad and, yes, it was an illegal alien that perpetrated the crime.
You cannot make any generalizations after that. You cannot really think about immigration policy just because these people were killed by illegal immigrants in this country, people that most of them have been deported more than once for committing other crimes in this country, and then you have cities in this country passing laws, telling their police officers, telling their law enforcement personnel that they cannot enforce the law.