Authorities in Essex County, New Jersey, recently identified a man named Jose Carranza as a principal suspect in the August 4 murder of three young people in Newark. The victims were forced to kneel against a wall and then shot in the back of the head. Carranza, a Peruvian national, is an illegal alien.
At the time of the shooting, Essex County officials reportedly considered the immigration status of criminal suspects “irrelevant.” The officials refused to ask the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) if the suspect was an illegal alien, unless and until the suspect was convicted and sentenced. That policy has had unfortunate consequences in this case. If DHS, which takes a special interest in child sex offenders, had known that Essex County had arrested Carranza earlier this year for molesting a five-year-old, it could very well have detained and deported him for his illegal status before the shooting.
Localities that fail to cooperate with DHS in identifying criminal aliens in their custody may end up paying a steep price. They ensure that criminal aliens who could otherwise be deported, are released back into the community to commit further crimes, which they do at an astonishing rate. A Government Accountability Office study found that 55,322 criminal aliens were arrested a total of at least 459,614 times, averaging over eight arrests per alien. The Department of Justice expressed its surprise at the “extremely high” rate of re-arrests for criminal aliens when it found that that 73 criminal aliens in a study group were arrested a total of 429 times. Localities that adopt “sanctuary” policies, in an effort to be welcoming to both legal and illegal immigrants, need to consider whether such policies have the effect of attracting and incubating crime.
Sanctuary policies compound the failure of the federal government to counter the flow of criminal aliens into the United States. DHS has not been given adequate resources to control the borders, despite indications from the Border Patrol that some 15-percent of the illegal border crossers it apprehends have criminal records. In FY06, the Border Patrol apprehended 142,365 criminal aliens on the borders. Of that number, 20,480 had committed major crimes, including homicide (444), kidnapping (145), sexual assault (523), robbery (947), assault (6,276), and drug crimes (12,730).
Despite complaints by many local sheriffs that DHS neglects their calls for assistance with alien suspects, DHS has failed to take significant nationwide steps to identify, detain, and remove criminal aliens in local custody. This failing is in part due to resources — like border enforcement, interior enforcement has been under-funded for decades — but it is also the result of policy choices within DHS. DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff recently announced that the administration would pursue a number of immigration enforcement reforms. Those reforms should be expanded to include targeting and removing criminal aliens in all jurisdictions throughout the country.
Localities and DHS should work together to remove criminal aliens from our streets, and send them back to their countries of origin. The legal authority for such cooperation already exists, and numerous jurisdictions have placed specially trained officers in their jails to help DHS identify criminals who should be deported. But such agreements are only one part of a larger national strategy that needs to be adopted to deal with criminal aliens.
I recently introduced the Immigration Enforcement and Border Security Act (S. 1984), which is a reflection of the concerns of a number of senators. These senators believe that the United States could do much more to combat the crimes committed by illegal aliens. Among other things, the bill would require DHS to help identify aliens incarcerated in U.S. jails before they are released, and to take custody of those aliens within 72 hours of apprehension or at the conclusion of any prosecution. It would provide the states $4.5 billion over five years to detain criminal aliens, increase DHS’s detention capacity to 45,000 beds, and provide 10,000 new DHS officers, about half of whom would process and deport aliens. The bill would require the listing of immigration status violators in the National Crime Information Center database, which is available to all law enforcement officers. It would also fund the training of local officers in the investigation, apprehension, and detention of criminal aliens.
State and local officials cannot take shelter behind the notion that illegal immigration is solely a Federal problem. Moreover, DHS needs to understand that combating criminal aliens is as important a task as confronting terrorism. Enacting provisions like those contained in S. 1984 would help federal, state, and local officials to manage their joint responsibility of identifying and removing criminals from the United States.
Jon Kyl was elected to the U.S. Senate from Arizona in 1994 and re-elected in 2000 and 2006, after having served four terms in the U.S. House of Representatives. He serves on the Senate’s Finance Committee, where he is the ranking Republican on the Subcommittee on Taxation and IRS Oversight, and on the Judiciary Committee, where he is the ranking Republican on the Subcommittee on Terrorism, Technology and Homeland Security.