Report: Local Immigration Policies Hurting Fed Anti-Terror Efforts

By Steve Brown | July 7, 2008 | 8:29 PM EDT

(Editor's Note: Clarifies 2nd, 5th and 10th paragraphs)

( - Only two years removed from the worst terrorist attacks in American history, federal efforts to link immigration enforcement with national security are being thwarted by state and local authorities, according to a report released Tuesday by an immigration think tank.

The Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) mentioned specific cases in which city, county and state governments have withheld cooperation from federal investigators. FAIR's report is titled State of Insecurity: How State and Local Immigration Policies Are Undermining Homeland Security.

"We have gotten, as a nation, into this idea that states somehow have no responsibility in assisting in the enforcement of immigration law and in fact have the right, if you will, to be an attractive magnet that brings people here illegally by providing all kinds of services and benefits without regard to someone's legal status," said Dan Stein, executive director of FAIR, at a press conference in Washington, D.C.

"That's not the case in any other area of federal law," Stein alleged, adding that special interest groups, foreign governments and certain employer groups influence local and state officials.

The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) is one such group opposing federal immigration enforcement efforts.

"AILA strongly opposes the use of state and local police departments for the enforcement of civil immigration laws," the organization stated in a March 4 press release published on its website.

"Determining that state and local authorities have the inherent right to enforce federal immigration laws will send the signal that these local entities are required to enforce laws in which they lack experience and training, strip them of valuable resources and undermine community relationships that have taken decades to build," the AILA statement asserted.

Sanctuary policies on the rise

Sanctuary policies, which forbid local police from questioning aliens about their citizenship status or cooperating with the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (formerly the Immigration and Naturalization Service), have been "reaffirmed and intensified," according to the report.

FAIR noted that in the last year, Seattle, Wash., and Portland, Maine, have adopted sanctuary policies, joining a list of other cities including 9/11 terror targets New York City and Washington, D.C.

The report also blamed 165 communities nationwide for "condemning" the USA PATRIOT (Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorists) Act. The town of Acarta, Calif., "has gone so far as to punish municipal employees who cooperate with federal efforts or who fail to notify the city manager in the event that federal law enforcement asks for their help," according to FAIR.

But the most recent trend involves states and local governments allowing illegal immigrants to use foreign consular identification cards to conduct personal business in the United States, the FAIR report stated.

"To some extent, (consular cards) represent the leading edge of the usurpation of U.S. sovereign rights to control its borders by a foreign government," Stein said. "States or cities that allow or accept these cards have made it that much easier for people who are in this country illegally to remain."

Supporters of the so-called Matricula Consular cards disagree.

"Mexico is a sovereign nation, and the U.S. cannot interfere with its right to provide Mexican citizens with identification documents," the League of United Latin American Citizens asserted in its July 23 newsletter. "If any one of us were, for example, to cross a border checkpoint into Mexico or Canada where no passport is required, and we got into a situation where we needed our own embassy to vouch for our identity, wouldn't we insist on that right? The Mexican Matricula is a highly secure document."

According to FAIR, while both the Justice Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation oppose the use of the cards, the Treasury Department, "under pressure from the banking and finance industry," has endorsed their use. The report reveals that 800 police and sheriffs' departments, numerous city and county governments and 13 states recognize the consular cards as a primary form of valid identification.

"Consular ID cards prove one thing with a reasonable degree of certainty: A person using one of these documents as a primary identity document is in the country illegally," the FAIR report stated. "In one case, an Iranian citizen - a country with documented ties to terrorist organizations - was found illegally in the United States in possession of a Mexican-issued consular ID," the report added.

FAIR supports the legislative efforts of Rep. Charles Norwood (R-Ga.), who is trying to encourage states and cities to cooperate with the federal government on immigration matters. Norwood's CLEAR (Clear Law Enforcement for Criminal Alien Removal) Act was introduced on July 9 and is slated for a House Judiciary Committee hearing in September.

The bill would not "mandate" state and local authorities to cooperate with federal authorities, according to Jennie Dirge, Norwood's legislative assistant. However, "the major focus of the bill is to ensure that state and local law enforcement agents have the resources they need to enforce these laws," she said.

"BICE (Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement) estimates that somewhere between 300,000 and 400,000 received final deportation orders that they can't find within the country. Of those, 80,000 have criminal convictions. [BICE has] 2,000 agents dedicated to enforcement...which just isn't going to cut it," Dirge said.

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