Skip to comments.City policy protecting immigrants under fire
Posted on 07/23/2005 12:09:26 PM PDT by SC33
City policy protecting immigrants under fire Moves are afoot to make police enforce laws; foes fear possibility of raids, roundups By EDWARD HEGSTROM Copyright 2005 Houston Chronicle
The announced arrival of citizen immigration patrols in Houston has rekindled a long-smoldering debate over the city's hands-off policy toward illegal immigrants.
Since 1992, Houston police officers have been officially forbidden from enforcing immigration law in most cases. Other city departments generally take a "don't ask, don't tell" approach toward immigrants, officials acknowledge.
Now those policies are under attack. Locally, City Councilman Mark Ellis called this week for training HPD officers to enforce immigration laws. And in Washington, D.C., congressional conservatives have proposed legislation to require local police to help patrol for illegal immigrants.
Ellis, a Republican, said city officials should have heeded a 2002 proposal from then-Attorney General John Ashcroft to increase federal and local cooperation on immigration law.
"If we had done what Ashcroft and the Bush administration had asked us to do, we wouldn't have the Minutemen coming to Houston," Ellis said of the Arizona-based organization opposed to illegal immigration that has announced it will begin patrols in Houston in October.
Ellis said he does not advocate using HPD officers for raids or roundups, but critics say they fear that would be the result of such a policy change.
"It's so unjust to stop someone and ask them for their papers because they look Hispanic," said Harris County District 6 Constable Victor Treviño.
White opposes checks Treviño said that when he joined the Houston Police Department in 1976, the officer who trained him would sometimes wait outside a Spanish-language movie theater on the north side and ask patrons for their documents as they left. Those who had no documents were arrested and turned over to federal immigration authorities, he said.
"I'll never do that again," Treviño said.
Mayor Bill White responded to Ellis' proposal by reiterating his opposition to having police check passports.
"Diverting our police officers to enforce federal immigration law would reduce the time they can spend responding to citizens' calls and investigating crime," the mayor said in a statement. He noted that the city does notify federal agents when an illegal immigrant commits a serious crime.
Critics also question what would happen if local police did begin arresting illegal immigrants, since the federal government has acknowledged it has nowhere to hold them. Though there are an estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the country, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has jail space for only 20,000 of them.
ICE spokeswoman Luisa Deason said her agency would still appreciate closer cooperation from Houston police in searching for illegal immigrants who are also criminals. She noted that HPD will not let immigration officials in the city jail to check the immigration status of those detained.
An investigation last year by the Congressional Research Service cited 31 cities across the country with policies that prevent local authorities from enforcing immigration laws. That includes Houston, Katy and Austin, as well as cities such as Fairbanks, Alaska.
Some conservatives in Congress, including U.S. Rep. John Culberson, R-Houston, support legislation that would cut off federal funding to such "sanctuary cities."
This week, Republican Sens. John Cornyn of Texas and Jon Kyle of Arizona introduced a comprehensive immigration bill that includes language encouraging, but not requiring, local enforcement of immigration law, Cornyn aide John Drogin said.
City councils in some cities, such as San Francisco and New York, have passed bills specifically prohibiting municipal officials from cooperating with immigration authorities. But New York's law was struck down recently by the U.S. Supreme Court.
A complex policy Craig Nelsen, a Washington-based activist who opposes sanctuary cities through his group, ProjectUSA, says the trend lately is for cities to implement their sanctuary policies administratively, and sometimes without putting them in writing.
Nelsen claims leaders in these cities know their policies are not popular, and they take their action quietly to stifle public debate.
Houston's policy is more complex than sometimes portrayed. In 1992, Houston Police Chief Sam Nuchia signed General Order 500-5, which states: "Officers shall not make inquiries as to the citizenship status of any person, nor will officers detain or arrest persons solely on the belief that they are in this country illegally."
But the policy has never been formally approved by the City Council and does not officially govern other departments. Before he became a city councilman, immigration attorney Gordon Quan lobbied for a law that would make Houston a "Safety Zone" for illegal immigrants. The proposal died in 1997 after garnering no council support.
But even without the official policy, city officials outside the Police Department are not encouraged to cooperate with immigration officials, Quan notes. He does not see any point in revisiting the issue.
"I just think it would be very divisive to talk about this immigration policy," he said.
Ex-officers may join patrols But Ellis believes the public needs a chance to speak on the subject, particularly after 9/11 and the terrorist bombings in Madrid and London.
Though Treviño said he personally viewed HPD officers stopping Hispanics in the 1970s to ask for documents, others claim that was never department policy.
"We didn't actively go out and search for illegals, but if we came across them in the course of our normal duty we would arrest them," recalled Guy McMenemy, a retired sergeant who was an HPD officer at the time.
McMenemy recently attended an organizational meeting of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps and says he knows of a number of other former HPD officers who are considering joining the effort. He said the Minutemen will only film illegal immigrants to draw attention to the fact that no one is doing anything about the problem, and he wonders why so many officials oppose that.
"It's like the Minutemen are the illegals," he said.
But Treviño said that if citizens and even police started entering Hispanic neighborhoods and asking locals for their documents, it would create a major backlash.
"It'll be worse than the Civil War," he said.
Yes, we can certainly thank Washington, DC for the fine job of protecting America from BALKANIZATION AND CIVIL WAR!!!!
** KUDOS TO OUR FINE CONCERNED POLITICIANS!!! **
This policy produces a protected criminal class.
The same principle drives the "juvenile criminal" problem, in that certain persons are detained only for a short period, then released because holding the suspect in the protected class is not politically acceptable. Somehow, it becomes "harassment" and is "intimidating" to members of the protected class.
But sometimes, members of these protected classes really ARE criminals, and have committed crimes that may only be considered to be heinous, only to have them wriggle free. Again and again.
"It's like the Minutemen are the illegals,"
The Minutmen are just "undocumented Border Patrol Agents"
The "ILLEGALS" are in the Congress and the White House - for not carrying out their Constitutional Duties!!
Git 'er Done!! PING!!
Does anybody with any knowledge of politics in the city of Houston think there will actually be a chnge in policy? Hopefully, if DeLay is serious about some type of serious enforcement bill, we can get a federal polcy rather than a mix of local ones.
If you want to read an article about the disconnect between our politicians and our reality, go read the article on www.votegraf.com about a Federal report showing that Jim Kolbe's blocking of checkpoints is making it harder for the BP to do its job. I can't post it on FR though.
I went to Kolbe's website to send him a Nasty Gram. He's e-mail form will not accept anything from outside AZ. He's aligned with McCain and Kennedy and that's all I need to know about this RINO!
go to FAIR or numbers usa and send a free fax. You can do it from anywhere, not just AZ. Plus, fax is the best way to make sure the message gets there.
I wonder whether the usual suspects who condemn any criticism of the Minutemen will also condemn this threat. We need to be careful not to infringe on the rights or convenience of Americans of Latin descent, but we must get the illegals out of our country.
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