Saturday, May 22, 2010

Federal response to AZ immigration draws scrutiny

Federal response to AZ immigration draws scrutiny

The Associated Press

Posted: 05/21/2010 05:35:57 PM PDT


PHOENIX—The federal government reiterated Friday that immigration agents will continue to focus on deporting only the most violent and dangerous criminals even under Arizona's new law cracking down on illegal immigrants.


The government's stance on the issue has come under greater scrutiny this week since the top official with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency told the editorial board of the Chicago Tribune that his department will not necessarily process all illegal immigrants referred to them by Arizona officials. John Morton said a comprehensive federal approach, not a patchwork of state laws, is the best way to reduce illegal immigration.


"I don't think the Arizona law, or laws like it, are the solution," Morton told the editorial board in comments that echoed those made by Obama and other members of his Cabinet.


Morton's comments are not a departure from the government's existing focus as it prioritizes how to respond to the tens of thousands of illegal immigration cases each year. A statement from the Department of Homeland Security on Friday said the Obama administration's policy directive that its agents "focus first on criminal aliens who pose a threat to our communities" will stand.


Morton's comments drew a sharp reaction from former Rep. J.D. Hayworth, who is challenging Arizona Sen. John McCain in the Republican primary.


"If you're not enforcing the law, you are encouraging lawlessness," Hayworth said.

He called for Morton to step down.


The ICE statement said it uses it "lawful discretion" to focus on the worst criminals.


That policy is not new: With an estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the country, the agency has been focused on so-called "criminal aliens" for years.


The government has been expanding a program begun under the Bush administration in 2008 called "Secure Communities" in which it funnels money to local law enforcement to identify illegal immigrants who commit crimes and target them for deportation.


Already in Arizona, nearly every person booked into major county jails is screened for their immigration status and thousands are turned over to ICE for processing. ICE has teams that respond to calls from law enforcement agencies who encounter groups of suspected illegal immigrants. And U.S. Border Patrol agents capture hundreds of thousands of migrants crossing the state's deserts every year.


But the Justice Department, at Obama's direction, is reviewing the civil rights implications of the Arizona law. The results of that review will help the administration develop a policy on how to deal with those who might be arrested under the Arizona law, which goes into effect on July 29.

Unidos Venceremos! United We Will Win!
~Peta-de-Aztlan~ Sacramento, California, Amerika
"Those who make peaceful revolution impossible,
make violent revolution inevitable."
~ President John F.Kennedy ~ Killed November 22, 1963

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