By Don Hunter
Police chief, Marco Island
Former sheriff, Collier CountyRe: The Oct. 7 immigration enforcement article by Victoria Macchi.
The reporter had a big task — to precipitate out the salient issues from a large and growing controversial subject.
She and I spent more than an hour reviewing the issue from the perspective of law enforcement. The comments attributed to me suggest a jaded view on this topic.
I must say that my view on this issue has been shaped by more than ten years of research on the topic. My position is determined by my understanding of my duties under oath as a law enforcement officer of the United States; the damage inflicted on the rule of law by whole populations of illegal aliens flaunting constitutionally valid law; the gross misuse of identity documents and mass identity theft involved in perpetrating the various felonies committed by this population (to secure work, to secure identity documents, to secure welfare and "entitlements", to secure drivers licensing and commercial carrier/hazardous material transport endorsements, etc.); and the massive risk that this unknown and unidentifiable population represents to the U.S.
Thus, my position is far more expansive and complicated than Macchi could depict in a few columns of print.
In addition to the quote used (that in the United States the law violator is usually viewed as responsible for both the decision to violate law and the consequence defined in law; in the case of illegally present foreign nationals this includes the exposure to be separated from their family members when removed from the U.S.) I offered more insight. I reminded the reporter that law enforcement does not make the determination to remove the illegally present foreign national from the U.S. but rather this decision is made after due process by an immigration judge.
Such decisions are made in the same fashion as all other crime and punishment is determined. Sheriff's offices and police departments across the U.S. routinely work with our federal partners as equals — whether FBI, U.S. Marshals Service, U.S. Secret Service, Internal Revenue Service or the Drug Enforcement Agency, we routinely separate families from the law violator when arrests are effected. This is a natural and expected consequence of law enforcement and many of the arrested persons will serve multi-year sentences incarcerated away from family.
A fundamental requirement of our laws is that the punishment is pre-published so that the law violator is able to know the consequence and weigh the merit of the unlawful conduct.
In Collier County the numbers tell the story. While sheriff, my three surveys of this population in the county jail revealed that approximately 20-25 percent of the jail population was illegally present. The average illegally present foreign national inmate had more than four prior arrests. Some of the inmates had more than 10 prior arrests but were still in country. The expense to incarcerate these foreign national serious offenders was more than $9 million annually.
We also determined that as much as 60 percent of the felony warrants for fugitives were for foreign nationals illegally present and believed that 80 percent of those wanted for homicide were illegal aliens and foreign nationals.
The sheriff's criminal alien task force that functions under the federal law commonly referred to as 287(g) is just that — a criminal alien task force. It is designed to and focuses on criminal aliens who are the highest risk for victimizing persons in Collier County. Typically, these persons are found in violent trans-national street gangs, organized crime groups, identity theft consortiums and the like but can also be individual persons involved in robbery, rape and murder. We were largely unsuccessful in convincing Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) that burglars should also qualify for removal inasmuch as the typical burglar willing to break into a home is capable of violence and that we had anecdotal evidence of murders committed by so called burglars.
The American Civil Liberties Union's Doug Wilson is reported to have concluded that we do not need a program in Collier County such as the one we have successfully operated for five years because programs in other areas of the country are suspected of misapplying the authority granted by 287(g).
Using Wilson's reasoning and by extension, I suppose that we should no longer use the services of lawyers owing to the fact that many have been found negligent in representation of client interests, egregiously violative of ethics and subject to malpractice throughout the U.S.
Or perhaps Mr. Wilson misspoke and the violators are the exception in the application of immigration law just as these unethical lawyers are the exception to the general practice of law.