Skip to comments.2 deported after police stop in store (About time!)
Posted on 11/20/2003 7:49:57 AM PST by Defiant
Family members questioned in response to theft report
By Sandra Dibble and Norberto Santana Jr.
UNION-TRIBUNE STAFF WRITERS
November 20, 2003
NATIONAL CITY – All Antonio Flores wanted to do, he said, was exchange a pair of pants.
But when Flores, 36, a San Diego construction worker, walked into the J.C. Penney store at Plaza Bonita shopping center Friday, he stumbled into a growing national debate over the role of local police in enforcing federal immigration laws.
Flores, who is Mexican-born, has been a legal U.S. resident since 1990 and holds a J.C. Penney credit card. He said he had bought a pair of pants earlier that day, but when he got home he realized they were too small. About 4 p.m. he took the pants and his receipt back to the store, accompanied by his wife, two children, an aunt and a cousin.
A half-hour later, they were stopped in the store by a police officer, questioned about a shoplifting incident and asked for their identification. The officer then called the U.S. Border Patrol, who deported the aunt and cousin to Mexico that day.
No charges were filed against anyone in the group.
The incident comes as Congress considers legislation to establish a system of financial penalties and rewards to encourage cities and states to help federal immigration authorities.
Proponents of the CLEAR Act see it as a way to stem the tide of illegal immigration.
Local police agencies traditionally have resisted pressure to act as agents of the federal government on such matters, arguing that they are overburdened already and that it hurts their ability to develop relationships in immigrant communities.
"It's important that our local law enforcement officers enforce the law locally, not federally," National City Mayor Nick Inzunza said.
However, in a criminal investigation, Inzunza said officers may call immigration authorities to establish identity.
While the details of Flores' brush with the law are unclear, the Mexican Consulate in San Diego called the incident "a very serious matter" and sent a letter of protest to Inzunza.
"We don't know if the Police Department of National City has changed its policy," said Consul Rodulfo Figueroa. "Now, when they come across a person with no documents, will they start reporting it to federal authorities?"
Inzunza said he called Figueroa after looking into the matter. Inzunza said his city adopted policies more than a year ago accepting an identification card – known as the matricula consular – that Mexicans, including those who are in the United States illegally, can get from the Mexican consulate. National City police officers have been briefed on the card and accept it, Inzunza said.
About a half-hour before Flores' group was stopped, J.C. Penney manager John Sanchez called police to report two Hispanic males suspected of shoplifting who were involved in a physical confrontation with store security. The men were gone by the time police arrived, said National City police spokesman Jose Tellez.
Security guards told Officer Steve Shephard that four individuals who had been with the others were still in the store.
Flores said he had exchanged the pair of boy's pants and was in another department when Shephard and a store manager approached him.
Shephard asked to see their identification, said Flores, who speaks little English. As a store employee interpreted, Shephard told Flores the store had implicated him in a shoplifting incident.
"That's when I asked him, 'Why me?' " Flores said. "He said, 'I have a report from them and had to act on it.' "
Flores said he and his family complied with the officer's request that they step outside and that the adults present identification cards. Flores said he showed his California driver license. He said his wife showed a matricula consular and was able to verify that her immigration papers were being processed. His cousin, Alejandro Galeana Flores, showed a matricula consular, but Flores said his aunt, Marfelix Arceta, had no identification.
Tellez said the cousin, as well as the aunt, didn't show identification.
When asked if they had immigration papers, "they said no," Tellez said.
That is when Shephard called the Border Patrol for a determination of who they were and their status, Tellez said.
"The only reason he called Border Patrol is because they are a suspect of a crime," Tellez said. "We would never have had anything to do with those people unless the store said they were involved."
A spokeswoman at Penney's corporate offices outside Dallas would not discuss the specifics of the case, but read from a prepared statement.
"We greatly value our Hispanic customers, and want them to feel valued and wanted in our stores," said Christie Byrd Smith. "Because local authorities are involved we are limited as to what we're at liberty to say."
Tellez said J.C. Penney didn't press charges and there is no investigation.
Flores said he will not soon forget what happened to him.
"It was humiliating for me and for my family," he said. "They never gave me a concrete answer. They never said, 'You are guilty of this.' "
Sandra Dibble: (619) 293-1716;
What's the pertinence of this statement? So what if he has a JC Penny credit card....Buh-bye auntie
There's a debate over whether or not police should enforce the law? According to whom? Some useless pack of lefties, no doubt. Anyone involved in preventing local police from enforcing the law is entering into a conspiracy with the law-breakers and they need to be arrested, charged, and tried for it.
A citizen of the US for 13 years and you speak little English?
Have you been to Miami lately? Chicago, N.Y.C., ALL of Californion, Dallas, or any city larger than a breadbox lately?
Go into a McDonald's in ANY STATE west of Oklahoma.
What language(s) are on the menus?
There are other crimes in this country besides shoplifting.
Being an illegal immigrant is one of them.
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