Timid approach affirms immigration skepticism

Published 12:02 am Sunday, July 25, 2010

It appears that new technology the federal government has provided to Warren County law enforcement officers merely plugs one tiny hole in a very large sieve.

Such a timid approach by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement illustrates why so many people are outraged about illegal immigration, why states such as Arizona are passing their own citizenship-check laws and why politicians are having great success wooing voters aroused by the topic.

Sheriff Martin Pace said digital fingerprints taken as detainees are booked into the local jail, already cross-referenced against FBI “wanted” lists, will also now be checked against Homeland Security files on “criminal aliens.”

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The list of what the system doesn’t do is far longer than what it does.

• It doesn’t help officers at traffic stops. Only people being booked will be fingerprinted.

• It doesn’t help the Vicksburg Police Department, which has yet to be connected and lodges most of its detainees in out-of-county jails.

• It doesn’t trigger an alert on just any illegal alien — one in the country without authorization, who has overstayed a visa or been convicted of lower-tier crimes.

It does inform ICE if a detainee (1) has been deported and is back in the country illegally or (2) if the detainee is in Homeland Security records for conviction of a serious crime such as murder, rape, robbery or burglary. (It seems the FBI database should already contain that information.)

ICE reportedly began deploying the system in October 2008 and says about 35,000 people have been snared by the technology who might otherwise have been missed. Compare that to estimates that as many as 14 million people are living in the United States illegally and it’s easy to see why citizens are confident in their belief that Congress doesn’t take the issue of border security seriously.