JUNE 15, 2006
Homeland Security officials can’t stop patting themselves on the back for a sting that rounded up a couple thousand illegal immigrants with violent criminal histories, but the fact remains that more than half a million fugitive aliens deported by U.S. judges remain in the country.
Homeland Security’s two-week “Operation Return to Sender” busted approximately 2,100 fugitive criminals who had served time for sexual assault, drug trafficking, robbery and abduction. Not surprisingly, border states such as California (722) and Texas (424) topped the arrest list followed by Massachusetts (157) and Louisiana (78). San Diego alone had 402 arrests, all of them Mexican or Guatemalan nationals with very violent records that included sex crimes against children.
The capture and subsequent deportation of these hardcore criminals is great news, especially when you read more detailed information on their lengthy rap sheets in Jim Kouri’s piece on News by Us, but you can’t help wonder what they were doing in the country to begin with? These are violent people – convicted in the U.S. judicial system – who should have been deported upon completing jail time.
Federal officials would rather not focus on that as was evident in Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff’s comments regarding the “successful” operation. He said it is another example of a new and tough interior enforcement strategy that seeks to catch and deport criminal aliens, increase worksite enforcement and crack down hard on the criminal infrastructure that perpetuates illegal immigration. He added that his department will use every authority to rid communities of this criminality.
Chertoff’s words bring a few points to mind. First, why has it taken so long for the feds to finally deport these vicious criminals? Then there is the second thing. If there are more than 500,000 fugitive aliens in the country who have already been “deported” but have disregarded American law by staying, a mere 2,100 captured in this operation is nothing.
A big part of the problem is the miscommunication between local and federal authorities. Case in point; illegal immigrants are supposed to be deported once they complete their jail time, however, many remain in the country upon release because jailers don’t process them through the federal deportation system.
Officials with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement have apparently caught on to this and are entering agreements with local agencies to train jail officials to identify illegal immigrants in the system. In Los Angeles County, for instance, the training has proven effective. A pilot program launched this year has already identified nearly 2,000 prisoners for possible deportation. That way the Department of Homeland Security doesn’t have to waste resources on late-night sweeps like Operation Return to Sender.
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