It’s about damn time.
On Friday, the Justice Department announced that in fiscal year 2019, it prosecuted the highest number ever of immigration-related offenses. And they’re just getting started.
The major push flips what had clearly been a declining trend in recent years in a number of different areas.
First, figures released by the department show U.S. attorneys’ offices charged a record-breaking 25,426 people with felony illegal re-entry in fiscal year 2019.
To give some perspective, that’s up from 23,425 in 2018 and 16,965 in fiscal year 2017.
Between 2012 and 2017, under Obama, that number had been declining steadily.
Now to the biggest spike in prosecutions.
That’s misdemeanor improper entry, which saw an 18.1 percent increase to 80,886 prosecutions this year.
Again for context, that was up from just 36,649 in fiscal year 2017.
It was another area that had been declining since hitting a high in 2013.
In the meantime, 4,297 people were charged with “alien smuggling”.
That number is up from 3,724 in fiscal year 2018 and 3,310 in fiscal year 2017, and has been slowly increasing from 2014, where just 2,762 people were charged with alien smuggling.
“These record-breaking numbers are a testament to the dedication of our U.S. Attorneys’ Offices throughout the nation, especially our Southwest border offices,” said Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen.
His office put out his comments in a statement.
“In addition to the usual workload of each case the Department prosecutes, this effort was made possible after our U.S. Attorneys’ Offices restored essential partnerships with national, state and local law enforcement partners.”
There’s been a big push by the Trump administration to crack down on illegal immigration. They’ve been doing that by figuring out ways to give immigration enforcement more tools and powers, while cutting down on what many view as loopholes in the system.
There’s also been progress on the legal front.
The administration has been working to change immigration practices and laws. For example, they set up agreements with Mexico to return migrants there while they await their hearings via the Migrant Protection Protocols.
On top of that, they ended the 1997 Flores settlement that limits how long children can be detained.
Since the beginning, the administration has said Flores encourages human smuggling. That’s because adult migrants take children with them in the hopes of being released into the interior of the United States.
Flores was identified as one of a number of “pull factors” that the administration looked to end — although that move has been blocked by a legal challenge.
On top of that, the administration has pushed back against “sanctuary cities”.
The data from the DOJ comes just one week after its Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) announced that it completed 275,000 cases this fiscal year. That’s the second-highest number (behind fiscal year 2018) in its history – a number which is nearly double the number of cases completed in fiscal year 2016.
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Many of us have been hoping and praying this day would come. The courts have finally started deciding cases in favor of ICE and the CBP. But not only are the courts ruling as such, states are now passing anti-sanctuary legislation.
Going back to a Supreme Court decision from March of this year, migrants living in the U.S. with serious criminal records can be held without bail while awaiting deportation even if ICE didn’t immediately pick them up when they were released from prison or jail, the Supreme Court ruled.
The 5-4 decision marked another rejection for the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the liberal panel that covers the country’s West Coast and that has tested a number of legal theories on immigration law.
In this case, the 9th Circuit had ruled that under the law, if U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement immediately arrested someone released from a federal, state or local prison, they could be held without bond in the immigration detention system. But if ICE didn’t immediately arrest them, the migrants must be given a chance to make bond.
The case turned on a phrase in the law that says the no-bail determination applies to someone picked up by ICE “when the alien is released” from prison or jail. The lower court ruled “when” must mean the day of release.
But Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., writing the majority opinion, said that could create a new loophole for sanctuary cities, which often refuse to alert ICE officers when releasing people from their local prisons and jails.
“Under these circumstances, it is hard to believe that Congress made the secretary’s mandatory-detention authority vanish at the stroke of midnight after an alien’s release,” he wrote.
He said it made more sense that “when” means at some point after the release, not at the exact moment of it.
While many immigrants living in the U.S. illegally are released while they await their court proceedings and possible deportation, Congress has deemed some serious criminals to be such safety risks that they must be held by ICE while their cases proceed.
As we discussed last week, in regard to a landmark ruling out of Miami, Florida that was handed down from a federal district judge, cooperate with ICE… or you’re out of a job.
There was a new Florida state law that put a ban on sanctuary cities. It also ordered law enforcement officers to continue full cooperation with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
Miami U.S. District Court Judge Beth Bloom upheld a majority of the components of that law on Monday, just one day before SB 168 went into effect.
On top of banning sanctuary cities in Florida, it also creates a new mandate. It requires police departments to hold inmates for an additional 48 hours to give ICE enough time to take custody of them.
There was only one part of the new law that Bloom shot down.
It was a piece of the law which required officers to transport illegal aliens across state lines if requested to do so by federal agencies. According to Bloom, that’s the federal government’s responsibility.
Back in June, SB 168 was signed into law by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. Although it formally went into effect in July, it wasn’t set to be enforced until Tuesday.
And there’s good incentive for elected officials to comply with the law. If they don’t, they could be removed from office by the governor or state attorney general.
“Congress gave a clear indication that it sought to facilitate, not preempt, the type of cooperation that SB 168 mandates,” Bloom wrote in the order.
The mayor of South Miami, Philip Stoddard, was one of the plaintiffs who filed a lawsuit seeking an injunction of the law.
He’s clearly in panic mode, saying he was “baffled” by Bloom’s ruling.
“It’s ridiculous,” Stoddard declared. “It’s putting immigration enforcement above public safety.”
Clearly he doesn’t understand that public safety is actually tied to enforcing the law. It seems he’s now fearing for his job.
“This means if ICE tells you to drop everything, patrol, protection of schools, criminal investigations, you have to go play Cowboys and Indians with ICE,” he claimed. “Local law enforcement is secondary to immigration enforcement.”
Back in June, immigrant advocacy groups and the City of South Miami filed the lawsuit against DeSantis and Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody.
There were a number of opponents of the new legislation. Many argued that some of the wording was too vague to enforce. One such area was the requirement that officers make their “best efforts” to assist ICE.
“The governor’s political enemies may interpret ‘best efforts’ differently,” Southern Poverty Law Center attorney Paul Chavez said last week.
The Southern Poverty Law Center has come under fire recently as been an extremely far left political organization that labels conservative groups it doesn’t like as all being “racist”.
“If I fail to abide by the provisions of this law, some of which are comprehensively vague, the governor may remove me from office,” Stoddard added.
In her order, Bloom specifically addressed those issues.
“The Court believes ‘best efforts’ to be sufficiently clear as to what conduct is or is not required for a facial pre-enforcement vagueness challenge,” the federal judge wrote.
In another sign that there may be hope after all, we can look at what happened in Fairfax County, Virginia last week.
A cop there had the “nerve and the audacity” to notify ICE that he had detained a subject that they had a warrant out on, and was subsequently suspended.
But on Thursday, after a massive public outcry about punishing the officer for upholding the law, the Fairfax County lawman has been allowed back to work.
Fairfax County Police Chief Edwin C. Roessler Jr. released a statement following the announcement of the decision to return his officer to the streets.
“We have one of the best police forces in the U.S. and I have confidence that our officer will represent us well throughout his career,” the chief said on Thursday.
As reported by the Washington Times, Chief Roessler Jr. said Tuesday he suspended an officer who cooperated with federal deportation officers by turning over an undocumented immigrant he encountered during a traffic stop — a move the chief said violated department policy.
Chief Roessler didn’t identify the officer but said he “deprived a person of their freedom” by cooperating with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
The chief called his actions unacceptable.
“Our county is one of the most diverse counties in the nation and no one should have the perception that FCPD is acting as a civil immigration agent for ICE,” he said in a statement. “This matter damages our reputation and the longstanding policy that I have stated many times that our officers shall not act as immigration agents.”
But cries from the public proclaimed that the officer was not acting as an immigration agent. He was merely extending a professional courtesy. He was doing his job.
The subject lost their “right to freedom” when they violated multiple laws.
For Roessler to claim that this officer was wrong for detaining a subject that was breaking the law is ludicrous. Had he stopped a suspect who was driving without a license, had a warrant for failure to appear in Stafford County and called Stafford to come pick him up, would he still be suspended?
The chief said the officer was working a traffic accident in the Huntington section of the Virginia county on Sept. 21 and came across someone without a driver’s license. When the officer ran the name, it returned a flag from ICE, which said the immigrant was a fugitive after failing to appear for a deportation hearing.
The county’s system confirmed the warrant. The officer called, and an ICE employee responded.
Chief Roessler said the county officer should not have detained the immigrant to turn over to ICE. He said that move broke department policy, which tells officers not to bother to confirm administrative warrants through the county’s system. The majority of administrative warrants are from ICE.
“The officer involved in this event has been relieved of all law enforcement duties pending the outcome of this investigation,” the chief said.
Luis Aguilar, director of CASA Virginia, a leading advocacy group for immigrants, said Chief Roessler’s decision to suspend an officer was bold — but correct.
“We think it’s a very appropriate action,” Mr. Aguilar told The Washington Times. “This is local law enforcement, this is the local police department, and they cannot be enforcing federal immigration laws. … This is a clear message of where and how the chief of police thinks.”
ICE did not respond to a request for comment, but the agency’s acting director last week used a press conference at the White House to complain about communities that refused to cooperate with his deportation officers.
Matthew T. Albence, the acting director of ICE, said police departments routinely cooperate with other departments on warrants and detention requests and there is no reason they should treat ICE differently.
“I guarantee you, I can go into Fairfax County [court] today and there will probably be sheriffs from Loudoun County, sheriffs from Prince William County, maybe a couple of Marshals guys that are there waiting for somebody,” he said. “It’s a common occurrence in law enforcement. The only reason it’s being made controversial is because politicians are looking to exploit it.”
Jessica Vaughan, policy studies director at the Center for Immigration Studies, said Fairfax County’s police department is getting the law enforcement equation backward.
“The police chief is ordering an investigation of an officer who did exactly the right thing by responding to an active ICE warrant on an illegal alien who was a fugitive,” she said. “It’s astonishing that a police chief is more intent on punishing his officer than seeing to it that legitimate laws are enforced.”
She disputed the police department’s suggestion that the county officer was acting as an agent of ICE.
She said that is no more true than if he had held someone for a warrant issued by neighboring Montgomery County in Maryland.
She said Fairfax police intended to shame the officer.
Chief Roessler said the suspect in question was picked up by ICE and was processed and released with an ankle bracelet pending the outcome of deportation proceedings.
Aguilar said it’s likely the suspect will be deported, and the police officer will be responsible.
“We don’t even know about the family itself, who’s going to be separated. We don’t know if there’s kids involved,” he said.
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