Illegal alien Walter Alexander Sorto, 25, was repeatedly picked up for driver's license violations and for driving without valid automobile insurance, but Houston police were barred from reporting his residency status to federal authorities. In March, Sorto and a companion abducted, raped and killed three Houston women.
In 2002, Maximiliano Esparza raped and killed a nun from Bellevue, Wash. He had earlier been in a California prison and, following his release, the court ordered him deported. But the government didn't deport Esparza. It merely asked him to sign an I-210, a simple promise to depart, widely known as a "catch-and-release" document.
Only the brutal gang rape of a New York City woman in December by four illegal aliens has produced a government response. Three of those four criminals had long rap sheets from previous arrests and should have been deported.
The House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Claims held a hearing in February to question officials from New York City and Houston about their "sanctuary" ordinances, which deter or even prohibit local police from reporting undocumented immigrants to federal authorities. New York City was under such an executive order issued in 1989 by then-Mayor Edward Koch.
On May 30, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg signed Executive Order 34 permitting city employees to ask people seeking government services about their immigration status if that is relevant to their eligibility. Bloomberg said his order was necessary to put the city in compliance with federal law, and even Koch came out in support of the Bloomberg order.
Bloomberg's order, however, has limits. He said in a written statement that he would never let police or city agencies become an arm of the Immigration and Naturalization Service "under my administration."
But why not? State and local police, of whom we have at least 670,000, are our first line of defense against criminals - not the minuscule 2,000 federal investigators assigned to immigration enforcement. But city officials are shackling local police.
Twenty cities, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, Chicago, Miami, Denver, Seattle and Portland, Maine, have adopted "sanctuary" ordinances banning police from asking people about their immigration status unless they are suspected of committing a felony or are a threat to national security or have been previously deported. But how are the police to know if they have previously been deported unless they first ascertain who they are?
What happens when alien criminals complete their prison terms? The Justice Department's inspector general admitted that the U.S. government released 35,318 criminal aliens into the general population in 2000. Nobody knows how many then committed additional serious crimes.
If the United States can wage a pre-emptive war against Iraq, local police should be allowed to pre-empt vicious crimes by checking the citizenship status of people arrested for minor as well as major crimes, and then reporting people in the United States illegally to federal authorities.
Attorney General John Ashcroft should make sure that all police know about his Oct. 8 speech to the International Association of Chiefs of Police wherein he promised that federal agents will respond when local officers notify them of immigration violators.
All sanctuary ordinances should be rescinded. It is the federal government's constitutional duty to close our borders to illegal entry and, yes, that means using electronic surveillance and U.S. troops.
Phyllis Schlafly is a national leader of the pro-family movement, a nationally syndicated columnist and author of Feminist Fantasies.
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