No argument justifies amnesty for illegal aliens

Phyllis Schlafly

5/3/2004 12:00:00 AM - Phyllis Schlafly

A favorite argument of the people who support amnesty for illegal aliens goes something like this: Current immigration laws, just like Prohibition and the 55 mph speed limit, cannot be enforced, so we might as well adjust to reality.

That is like telling a woman, "You can't fight your rapist, so relax and enjoy it." There must be a better solution.

Comparing the ongoing invasion of the United States by illegal aliens to Prohibition or the 55 mph speed limit is totally unreasonable. The majority of Americans wanted those laws repealed. But the people, by a wide margin, want our immigration laws enforced.

That's why Sens. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., and Zell Miller, D-Ga., held a hearing last week on their Homeland Security Enhancement Act, which is designed to promote cooperation between local law enforcement agencies and federal immigration authorities.

It is a reflection of the peculiar times in which we live that there is a need for such a law. But the failure of federal and state law enforcement personnel to cooperate to protect us from crimes committed by illegal aliens is as dangerous as the now-famous failure of the CIA and the FBI to talk to each other about terrorists.

Rep. Charlie Norwood, R-Ga., is the sponsor of a similar bill, called the CLEAR Act, to give state and local authorities the power to routinely enforce federal immigration laws. The bill has 120 co-sponsors and is one border security bill that has a chance to pass this year.

The numbers tell us why this cooperation is essential. Our fewer than 2,000 federal immigration agents cannot possibly cope with the problems caused by 10 million illegal aliens. We don't want to hire 500,000 new federal agents.

The solution is to use the police officers who walk their beats, drive our highways and come into contact with illegal aliens every day. The federal government desperately needs the eyes, ears and cooperation of our 650,000 state and local police officers.

The open-borders lobby is vehemently opposed to this sensible cooperation. Many city and local governments have adopted so-called "sanctuary" laws, or policies to forbid local police to ask anyone whether they are legally in the United States.

Police officers who suspect violations of immigration law are often prohibited from detaining illegal aliens or contacting federal immigration authorities. Sanctuary laws even prohibit police officers from reporting immigration violations to federal authorities.

We've seen many examples of illegal aliens who were stopped by local police but set free, only to commit crimes instead of being deported. One such case is the notorious Dec. 19, 2002, gang rape in Queens, N.Y., of a mother of two by five illegal aliens from Mexico and Central America who had been arrested several times, but never turned over to the immigration agency.

The most famous example is Washington, D.C.-area sniper Lee Malvo, a Jamaican who was caught by local law enforcement in Bellingham, Wash. He was identified as an illegal alien who should have been deported, but instead was set free by federal authorities.

Three of the Sept. 11, 2001, hijackers, including ringleader Mohammed Atta, had been stopped and ticketed for significant traffic violations, such as driving without a license and speeding at 90 mph. Thousands of innocent lives could have been saved had there been closer cooperation between local police and immigration authorities.

The Los Angeles police department is handcuffed by Special Order 40, which prohibits the police from asking anyone they arrest about their immigration status unless the suspect is already charged with a felony. The police cannot notify immigration authorities about an illegal alien picked up for minor violations, even though it is well known that enforcing laws against minor crimes often prevents major ones.

The 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act makes it unlawful for any municipality to restrict its employees from reporting illegal aliens to federal authorities. It also allows the federal government and local police to work together under specific written agreements. A few local agencies have reached such agreements, and Virginia just became the third state to give its state police more authority to detain illegal aliens.

Former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, trying to defend his city's sanctuary policy, fought against that law all the way to the Supreme Court. He lost in court, but Mayor Michael Bloomberg's "don't ask, don't tell" rule continues to skirt the 1996 law.

There are 400,000 illegal aliens walking our streets who are under standing deportation orders, known as absconders, of whom 80,000 are criminal aliens and nearly 3,800 are from countries with a known al-Qaeda presence. The Los Angeles Police Department has more than 1,200 outstanding warrants for illegal aliens on homicide charges.

The foreign born make up 30 percent of federal prisoners. The big-city gangs are mostly foreign born, and their viciousness is illustrated by Valentino Mitchell Arenas, the 16-year-old who on April 21 is alleged to have shot and killed California Highway Patrol officer Thomas Steiner as the boy's admission ticket to the 12th Street Pomona gang, which authorities say has ties to the Mexican Mafia.

The CLEAR Act and the Homeland Security Enhancement Act will give our beleaguered law enforcement officials more tools to combat terrorists, gangs and other criminals. Tell your representatives in Congress to act now.