Hispanic Caucus Calls for Ending Program That Identified 100,000 Illegal Aliens, Many With Criminal Records
Friday, October 02, 2009
By Penny Starr, Senior Staff Writer
In this Jan. 17, 2007 file photo, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers arrest a suspect during a pre-dawn raid in Santa Ana, Calif. (AP Photo)
(CNSNews.com) – The Congressional Hispanic Caucus has asked the Obama administration to “immediately terminate” a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) program that has identified more than 120,000 illegal aliens over the past three years..
“On behalf of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC), we write to ask that you immediately terminate all Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) under the 287(g) program and cease to establish such agreements,” reads the letter to President Obama.
“These agreements are the subject of serious concern as local law enforcement agencies have used the new powers to target communities of color, including a disproportionate number of Latinos, for arrest,” says the letter. “The 287(g) program, which was significantly expanded throughout the Bush Administration, relinquishes the power to enforce federal immigration laws to local law enforcement and corrections agencies. … The misuse of the 287(g) program by its current participants has rendered it ineffective and dangerous to community safety.”
The program, the 287 (g) section added to the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996, created a partnership between the Department of Homeland Security’s ICE and state and local law enforcement to enforce federal immigration laws.
The Sept. 28 letter is signed by caucus leaders Reps. Nydia Velazquez (D-N.Y.) and Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.).
The letter cites a March 2009 Government Accountability Office report that “found alarming examples of mismanagement and insufficient oversight of this controversial program.”
However, a spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security said 287(g) has undergone a “sea change” since the “standardization” of the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) was announced by Secretary Janet Napolitano in July, and that the changes were designed to make the program more accountable.
“ICE takes the concerns raised about the program by the signatories to this letter very seriously,” Matthew Chandler told CNSNews.com. “The new, standardized 287(g) agreements that were announced in July strengthen ICE's oversight of the program and make our communities safer by identifying and removing criminal aliens who pose a public safety threat.”
“This new agreement supports local efforts to protect public safety by giving law enforcement the tools to identify and remove dangerous criminal aliens,” Napolitano said in a July 10 statement. “It also promotes consistency across-the-board to ensure that all of our state and local law enforcement partners are using the same standards in implementing the 287(g) program.”
The new MOA aligns 287(g) local operations with major ICE enforcement priorities, specifically, the identification and removal of criminal aliens, according to DHS.
The DHS said the new MOA also defines the objectives of the 287(g) program, outlines the immigration enforcement authorities granted by the agreement, and provides guidelines for ICE’s supervision of local agency officer operations, information reporting and tracking, complaint procedures and implementation measures.
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
“The 287(g) program is an essential component of DHS’s comprehensive immigration enforcement strategy,” ICE Assistant Secretary John Morton said in the same July 10 statement. “The new agreement strengthens ICE’s oversight of the program and allows us to better utilize the resources and capabilities of our law enforcement partners across the nation.”
The letter from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus says state and local law enforcement “use their expanded and often unchecked powers under the 287(g) program to target immigrants and persons of color.”
“It is our opinion that no amount of reforms, no matter how well-intended, will change this disturbing reality,” the letter states.
CNSNews.com sent inquiries by e-mail and telephone to Reps. Gutierrez and Velazquez to explain how federal immigration law could be better enforced in the United States if the 287(g) is eliminated. The representatives were also asked to comment on the success of the program, which since January 2007 has identified more than 120,000 individuals as “potentially removable aliens,” most of whom are incarcerated in local jails, according to DHS.
As this story went to press, the congressional representatives had not responded. However, Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) commented on the Hispanic Caucus’s letter about 287(g), telling CNSNews.com: “This is just another ploy by amnesty advocates to open our borders and stop enforcing the rule of law. This program has been an effective tool in cracking down on illegal immigration and enforcing our laws. We should make it a nationwide effort instead of shutting it down.”
To date, the Memorandum of Agreement had been signed with 66 state and local law enforcement agencies in 23 states, with more than 1,000 officers trained and certified by ICE, according to DHS.
La Raza President Wants Health Care Reform for ‘Everyone,’ Including Illegal Aliens
Friday, October 02, 2009
By Matt Cover
Janet Murguia, president and CEO of the National Council of La Raza, said that universal health care should be available to all people in the United States, including those who are in the country illegally. (CNSNews.com/Penny Starr)
(CNSNews.com) – National Council of La Raza President Janet Murguia said that health care reform should include “everyone,” and this means illegal immigrants as well because with more people paying into the system it might lower the costs of health care.
Speaking to reporters Thursday at a press conference in support of President Barack Obama’s efforts to pass a government-led overhaul of the nation’s health care system, Murguia said that while the issue of illegal immigrants was politically difficult, there were “strong” arguments for covering the illegals.
“From our perspective there’s a strong case to be made in this country for us to reform health care [and] it ought to include everyone,” said Murguia. “There’s a lot of different reasons why we should try to reform this system once and for all so that everyone is covered. The more people who are covered, the more cost-effective and the more and better health outcomes we’re going to have.”
“We know that politically it’s very difficult right now to take on the issue of undocumenteds [but] there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be trying to cover as many people as possible, certainly when it comes to undocumented children,” she said. “Our goal should be to have health care reform for everyone.”
Both of the current House and Senate versions of health care reform legislation restrict the availability of federal health insurance subsidies to U.S. citizens and legal residents. Title II, Subtitle C, Section 246 of the House health care bill (H.R. 3200), for example, stipulates “no federal payment for undocumented aliens.”
The Senate bill says that beneficiaries of federal health care programs must be a citizen or national or an alien lawfully admitted to the United States. But neither bill apparently has a provision for verifying citizenship status.
At a speech before the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute in September, President Obama said, “I want to be clear: If someone is here illegally, they won’t be covered under this plan. That’s a commitment I’ve made.”
Republican attempts to amend the health care legislation to require a photo ID and Social Security number and similar safeguards to receive federally subsidized health benefits have been defeated, largely along party lines.
The National Council of La Raza is the nation’s oldest Hispanic organization.
Murguia joined the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda on Capitol Hill on Thursday to lobby for Obama’s health care policy, saying that the way to resolve the issue of illegal aliens and health care was to pass comprehensive immigration reform, which would stop the “segmenting” of American society.
“We support health care reform and we support comprehensive immigration reform,” said Muguira. “Once we take on that issue we’re hoping that we can be done with the issue of trying to segment this country into certain segments of population.”
Comprehensive immigration reform would convert illegal immigrants into legal immigrants who would be permanent legal residents of the United States with an opportunity to be naturalized as U.S. citizens.
At that same speech in September, Obama said: “I also want to make this clear: Even though I do not believe we can extend coverage to those who are here illegally, I also don't simply believe we can ignore the fact that our immigration system is broken.”
“If anything, this debate underscores the necessity of passing comprehensive immigration reform and resolving the issue of 12 million undocumented people living and working in this country once and for all,” Obama said.
Muguira said on Thursday: “From our perspective, when it comes to comprehensive immigration reform, we need to settle that issue once and for all [because] there’s a group of 12 million individuals who’ve been making important contributions to this country, we need to find a resolution for them.”
When asked exactly what that “resolution” would be, Murguia said it was a pathway to legalization, adding that once it is passed, the issue of illegal immigrants will not come up again.
Leaders of Hispanic communities in the United States and Puerto Rico chanted for health care reform, including reform that includes a government run health care plan (CNSNews.com/Penny Starr)
“We need a path to legalization,” said Murguia. “We can make it happen. Once we do that, we can resolve this issue and won’t see it come up issue after issue, bill after bill. There’s a strong case to be made even today for why health care reform should include everyone.”
When asked by CNSNews.com to clarify whether a pathway to legalization was the solution to getting insurance coverage for illegal immigrants, Murguia said it was “a solution” and that immigration reform was needed so that all reform proposals would not face this potential roadblock.
“It would be a solution,” she said. “What we have argued all the time is that we should tackle the issue of comprehensive immigration reform once and for all because it may not be health care reform, it could be any other major reform, but these issues of the status of undocumenteds in this country and what’s right and fair are going to continue to come up.”
“If we can resolve that,” she said, “I think we’ll go a long way to being able to address these broader reforms without these issues being distractions.”
CNSNews.com asked Murguia whether her “solution” meant that illegal immigrants would be eligible for federal health insurance subsidies if comprehensive reform is passed. She responded that illegal aliens should be covered along with everyone else, but that who was eligible for which federal programs would depend on the specific reform proposals.
“Right now, there’s a case to be made in the long term for including as many people as possible because it’s more cost-effective and because there’s better health results and all of that,” said Murguia. “In terms of fairness and cost efficiencies I think it’s in the interest of health care reform to have access to as many people as possible.”
“If we can deal with comprehensive immigration reform and once and for all deal with what the status change would be for those folks, then I think there’ll be a lot of clarity as to what access they would have to any federal government programs or to any subsidies,” she said. “We just want to make sure we can deal with comprehensive reform so we can have more clarity.”
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