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Insecure Communities

A Commentary by Debra J. Saunders

San Francisco Sheriff Michael Hennessey explained in The San Francisco Chronicle's Sunday Insight his opposition to Secure Communities, the federal program that automatically passes new arrestees' fingerprints to Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The program applies to "everyone booked into a county jail," Hennessey complained -- "even (in) a minor matter, such as having no driver's license in one's possession in a traffic stop."

To Hennessey and many other "sanctuary city" supporters, a person can break federal immigration law, then violate state driver's license law, but still should escape the legal consequences.

Secure Communities is supposed to address illegal immigration by targeting not all of the estimated 11 million people residing illegally in America but those who present an added risk to the general public by doing something that lands them in jail.

By March 31, ICE examined 7.2 million fingerprints, which led to the arrest of 200,000 people and the deportation of 101,741. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano acknowledges that not all of the deportees were convicted of the crimes that landed them in local jail, but all were found guilty of violating immigration law.

Liberals should love this program. It has ICE focusing on criminals, not immigrants who otherwise play by the rules. There is no risk of racial profiling -- the left's objection to last year's controversial Arizona immigration law. As Gov. Jerry Brown pointed out when he served as state attorney general, "Using fingerprints is faster, race neutral and results in accurate information and identification."

Hennessey argues that Secure Communities will deter illegal immigrants from reporting crimes. He presents the specter of battered women reporting domestic abuse at the risk that they, too, might be arrested -- and says a local victim now is fighting deportation.

Fear not, Napolitano told The Chronicle at a recent editorial board meeting. The feds know which jurisdictions are likely to arrest both parties in domestic disputes and has established safeguards to protect victims. Also, the feds consider "the immigration status of the alien, the severity of the crime and the alien's criminal history" in deciding what action will follow.

There were no safeguards on San Francisco's runaway sanctuary city law before 2008. City pols decided not to notify ICE when police arrested juveniles -- or adults as old as 25 who claimed to be juveniles -- on felony charges. The city was flying accused drug dealers to their home countries or placing them in group homes from which they could escape -- in a desperate determination to keep criminals in America.

When he was 17, Salvadoran Edwin Ramos was found to have committed two felonies -- assault and an attempted robbery of a pregnant woman. The city shielded Ramos from ICE. He now stands accused in the 2008 shooting deaths of Tony Bologna, 48, and his sons Michael, 20, and Matthew, 16. He has pleaded not guilty.

Voters should be clear about the true objections of Secure Communities opponents. They don't like the law. They can't defeat the law in Washington, so they are trying to turn the system into one big exception, with no rule.


See Other Political Commentary

See Other Commentary by Debra J. Saunders

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