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Monday, January 26, 2009

Dan Way's inflammatory column misses mark on Secure Communities

Posted by on Mon, Jan 26, 2009 at 3:23 PM

If you're searching for a local example of what Barack Obama deemed the false choice "between our safety and our ideals," look no further than Dan E. Way's Sunday column in this week's Chapel Hill Herald. In "Commissioners risk public safety with a PC policy," the Herald editor favors hyperbole and fear over context and analysis as he weighs in on Orange County's participation in the Secure Communities program.

Way criticizes Orange County Commissioners for even questioning the program--"the political correctness versus responsible police work showdown" is how Way describes this month's amicable public meeting, in which Sheriff Lindy Pendergrass answered questions from the board. "Secure Communities," which Pendergrass implemented this month without prior board review, grants the Department of Homeland Security and other federal agencies access to Orange County's fingerprinting data to coordinate the detention and deportation of illegal immigrants who have also committed crimes, including traffic violations. Make no mistake: This program has no practical effect on improving local authorities' ability to arrest and try defendants for crimes other than immigration violations, which are beyond the jurisdiction of non-federal agencies.

The basic premise of Way's argument--that questioning Secure Communities is "politically correct," and a "double standard" for critics of North Carolina's broken probation system--makes a false comparison between committing violent crimes, and breaking immigration law. This type of rhetoric is typical among anti-immigration groups like Americans for Legal Immigration PAC (ALIPAC), but the editor of a newspaper in Chapel Hill ought to know better than to dish out the same second-grade fresh meat. ("They are horrified by the notion of Orange County being viewed as a rude host by giving the boot to those who criminally abused the generosity and benefits extended to them by their host country," Way writes of the Orange County Commissioners.)

Regrettably, Way invokes the name of one of Chapel Hill's most beloved, though short-lived, residents, Eve Carson (full disclosure: a friend of mine). His decision to do so is petty, and irrelevant to the discussion. ("How will they explain that to the family of the next Eve Carson when a very preventable death occurs because of their political correctness?" Way asks.) Indeed, the suspects in Carson's death had been in and out of the state's probation system not for federal immigration violations, but for violent crimes such as the possession of a firearm. While one can reasonably construct causality between owning and shooting a gun, it's inconceivable to do the same between crossing a border (or failing to get one's papers in order), and killing someone. Yet this is the logic Way, and anti-immigration loudmouths, rely on.

Registration is required to view the article, but I've copied and pasted it below the fold, where it belongs.

Commissioners risk public safety with a PC policy

Jan 25, 2009

The Chapel Hill Herald

Does Eve Carson ever cross the minds of the seven Orange County commissioners?

Did they think of her as they grilled Sheriff Lindy Pendergrass about his law enforcement agency's involvement in a federal program designed to protect American citizens and national interests?

One must wonder, because there are chilling similarities in how the N.C. Department of Correction's probation division totally mishandled the cases of two Durham thugs accused of cowardly gunning down the UNC student body president and the willful blind eye the commissioners desire that Pendergerass turn to potentially violent criminals here illegally.

The political correctness versus responsible police work showdown occurred Thursday night when Pendergrass gave the Board of Commissioners a rundown of the Secure Communities program, in which the sheriffs' offices in Orange, Duplin and New Hanover counties are participating.

The database program alerts U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) when a criminal immigrant is jailed.

The way it works is this: A computer software program allows law enforcement agencies to submit a detainee's fingerprints into a federal database linked to the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security.

In mere minutes, jailers know the person's true identity. That's a very handy tool. Those who commit mayhem in the streets don't always adhere to "honesty is the best policy" when giving officers their names.

Under existing procedures, it might take days to get an ID confirmed, and it's not been unknown for felons, fugitives and wanted probationers to be released from jail and disappear again before it is learned who they really are and why they are being sought by other police agencies.

The Secure Communities program sends automatic alerts to ICE when the database flags an individual as an undocumented foreigner.

Again, this is an effective, necessary way to deal with those in the country illegally. Those without documents or who have run afoul of the law, don't always use their real names.

Pendergrass said his staff wouldn't know the status of a detainee unless ICE made that known to them.

The Feds decide whether and how to handle the case of an immigration violator. The decision is based, in part, on a priority criteria system, with tiers ranging from violent criminals and drug dealers to those who committed minor offenses.

When Secure Communities launched last March, John S. Pistole, FBI deputy director, said: "Under this plan, ICE will be utilizing FBI system enhancements that allow improved information sharing at the state and local law enforcement level based on positive identification of incarcerated criminal aliens."

U.S. Rep. David Price, D-Chapel Hill, was specifically applauded by Julie L. Myers, Homeland Security assistant secretary for ICE, for helping to push through $200 million for the program. Price is chairman of the Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee. Myers said the goal of Secure Communities is to protect the public.

Compare that to what state Attorney General Roy Cooper called for last May in the grim wake of Carson's death by multiple gunshots after she was abducted and forced to drain her bank funds by alleged killers Laurence Lovette Jr. and Demario Atwater.

The information-sharing program Cooper pushed would link police agencies to the Department of Correction database. It would allow officers on the street to know whether the person they stopped was wanted for probation violations, has a history of violence, and should be set free with a ticket or taken to jail.

Law enforcement officials say the present system is cumbersome and not always rapid enough to prevent the unwitting release of someone who should have been detained.

"We should be able to see immediately if a suspect is on probation when he's caught committing another crime," Cooper said then.

Sound familiar? That's the same storyline as Secure Communities.

Which makes one wonder about those Orange County commissioners and the terribly misguided resolution they have passed barring local law enforcement from working with federal immigration authorities to remove criminal immigration violators from our shores.

They are horrified by the notion of Orange County being viewed as a rude host by giving the boot to those who criminally abused the generosity and benefits extended to them by their host country. Would they also be against sealing the cracks in a state probation system that many view as being an unindicted codefendant in Carson's murder case?

One thing is sure. When probation violators are identified as recurring lawbreakers, they can be jailed and dealt with. But Orange County commissioners favor a double standard that gives greater protection to immigrants violating federal law than is granted to native Americans on probation, and that is wrong.

How will they explain that to the family of the next Eve Carson when a very preventable death occurs because of their political correctness?

H/t OrangePolitics for posting discussion about the column.

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