The two words that strike fear in most people’s hearts are “criminal aliens.”
To the Rush Limbaugh set, any undocumented immigrant is a criminal alien, regardless if the extent of their criminality is only overstaying their visa.
To the police and the Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement, otherwise known as ICE, a criminal alien is supposed to be an immigrant who is a true danger to society, whether he/she be a murderer, rapist, pedophile, drug runner, etc.
In fact, a federal program called the Criminal Alien Program (CAP) was set up just for that reason — to screen inmates in prisons and jails, identify dangerous criminal aliens, and place them into deportation proceedings so they wouldn’t find their way back into the community.
Nobody argues against a program like this. Regardless of where one stands on the issue of illegal immigration, nobody wants criminals, who are truly criminals in the sense of physically hurting other people, out on the streets.
From ICE’s own admission, the CAP program works wonderfully. Those apprehended through the CAP program account for “48% of all deportable immigrants identified by ICE in FY 2009 — more than the 287(g) program, Fugitive Operations, and the Office of Field Operations combined.”
Yet, there has been a growing suspicion among immigrant advocacy groups that some law enforcement and ICE officials were abusing the CAP program and labeling every undocumented immigrant that crossed their path as “criminal.”
Come to find out those suspicions were warranted.
In the report The Criminal Alien Program: Immigration Enforcement in Travis County Texas, released by the Immigration Policy Center, the author of the report found that an analysis of the data regarding enforcement of the CAP program supports what has long been suspected.
According to the study:
A large percentage of immigrants apprehended under CAP are not criminals at all. An October 2009 DHS report found that 57 percent of immigrants identified through the CAP program in FY 2009 had no criminal convictions, up from 53 percent in FY 2008.
In Travis County, a majority of immigrants placed under detainer were arrested for a misdemeanor as their most serious charge. In 2008, 58 percent of the detainers were placed on those charged with misdemeanors-up from 38 percent in 2007 and 34 percent in 2006.
According to the report, the CAP program, while good if used properly, is bad for the state economy. When an inmate is flagged as a CAP detainee, they cannot be released and are jailed far longer at a cost to local and state coffers.
In Texas, Governor Rick Perry is demanding that the federal government reimburse Texas for the cost of incarcerating immigrants tagged for deportation.
Perry said Texas spends $13.5 million each month holding illegal immigrants who are either serving their sentences or awaiting deportation. He said an estimated 9,000 illegal immigrants are in Texas Department of Criminal Justice custody.
It’s one thing if these detainees deserved to be in jail as described under the CAP program but further analysis of data from Texas shows that In 2008, 58 percent of the detainers in Travis County were placed on those charged with misdemeanors.
In another Texas town, Irving, Texas, (a Dallas suburb) the data wasn’t too dissimilar:
In the first year of CAP implementation, in 2006â€2007, 12.5 percent of all charges were for the traffic offenses of driving without a license or driving with an invalid or suspended license, according to a local newspaper.
A recent study by the Warren Institute assessing the arrest data from Irving finds that 98 percent of all arrestees placed under detainer in 2007 had been arrested for misdemeanor offenses.
The abuse by federal and local law enforcement agents regarding enforcing CAP does a disservice to not only the local and state economies but to those immigrants who are being falsely labeled a criminal in the traditional sense of the word.
It is disingenuous and purposely misleading for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to endorse a program touted as being one that safeguards the community when over 95 percent of those apprehended don’t even fit the definition of the program’s mission.
The report makes several recommendations that deserve implementation, but especially the following two:
ICE should be required to issue reports to Congress on a regular basis, with statistics on the crimes for which identified nonâ€citizens are arrested, the disposition of each underlying criminal case, and the nationality and ethnicity of identified nonâ€citizens. Jurisdictions participating in CAP should be required to report their arrest and identification statistics to ICE supervisors for oversight and management purposes.
The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) or another neutral agency should conduct an audit of CAP. The report should contain an assessment of CAP’s goals and objectives, performance measures, supervision and oversight, data tracking, and reporting mechanisms. It is important that officials overseeing CAP review the GAO report on 287(g) and make every reasonable effort to ensure that this national program be properly defined, documented, evaluated, and supervised.
It’s time ICE was made accountable for how they conduct the business of the federal government.