We all know about Bernard Kerik’s withdrawal in the wake of his disclosure that he had hired an illegal alien nanny. But two other Bush choices–AG nominee Al Gonzales and Agriculture Secretary nominee Mike Johanns –have far worse records on immigration enforcement.
SEN. KENNEDY: Thank you.
I wanted to talk in the time that’s available about immigration issues and some civil rights issues and then quickly on the death penalty, what you’re going to do. Those are the three areas I’d like to try and cover.
One is the — which we talked about — the state and local law enforcement of immigration laws. You’re familiar with this. In 2002 the Department of Justice reversed long-standing policies — supported the inherent authority of states to enforce federal immigration laws, and this — that reversal was based on an Office of Legal Counsel opinion that’s not been made public. And I’ve asked for a copy of the opinions; so have others of the Congress; interested parties have asked for it too. The refusal to — it’s been the subject of a lawsuit. The department’s response failed to provide the opinion but simply offered its conclusion without any discussion.
I have difficulty finding a good reason why the department continues to keep the opinion and its legal analysis secret, especially since it reverses a long-standing policy that scores of police chiefs, police departments around the country, including many in your home state of Texas, have denounced the idea of involving state and local police in federal immigration enforcement. Last month the International Association of Chiefs of Police issued a report expressing concern. They and others believe it will destroy the remarkable progress they’ve made with community policing in which police have worked closely with the public, including immigrant communities, and developed productive bonds of trust — concerns raised by law enforcement shared by many conservative and security experts. I can’t believe I’m quoting Grover Norquist — Bob Barr, the Heritage Foundation all say this could be an unmanageable burden on the law enforcement officials.
So could you tell us why — quickly as you could — the secrecy, and can you tell us whether you’d support them releasing the OLC opinion on the authority to —
MR. GONZALES: Senator, thank you for that question. You and I did talk about that in your office. This matter is in litigation, as you indicated; there is FOIA litigation about the release of the memo. The conclusions are known. It’s the analysis, the deliberations that went into the opinion that I think the department is seeking to protect.
Let me just emphasize, though, or try to provide reassurance about this.
There is no requirement, of course, upon state and locals to enforce federal immigration laws. This is purely voluntary. In fact, of course, some states have prohibitions; they couldn’t do it even if they wanted to. In some cases the department, as I understand it, has entered into with state or local departments, in terms of memorandums of understanding in order to enforce this. We’re certainly — I certainly am sensitive to the notion that some local law enforcement people don’t want to exercise this authority. Well, we’re not saying that they have to. But if they want to and they can assist in fighting the war on terror, that’s what this opinion allows us to do.
Personally, I would worry about a policy that permits someone, a local law enforcement official, to use this authority somehow as a club to harass — they might be undocumented aliens, but otherwise lawful citizens. That would be troubling. That would be troubling to the president who, as a governor of a — former governor of a border state understands and appreciates the roles that immigrants and undocumented aliens play in our society.
But it is in litigation, and it would probably be better if I didn’t speak more about that.
So Gonzales agrees with Kennedy that state and local law enforcement officials should neither enforce immigration law nor cooperate with federal immigration authorities.
As I noted two years ago (“The Lesson of Lee Malvo’s Fingerprint“), it was cooperation between Bellingham, Wash., police detective Al Jensen and Border Patrol agents Keith Olson and Raymond Ruiz that led to the capture of snipers Lee Malvo and John Muhammed. If Gonzales had his way–that is, if Bellingham police officials had been prohibited from contacting federal immigration authorities–Malvo and Muhammed would probably still be on the loose today.
By the way, it’s not clear that the Heritage Foundation is still on Sen. Kennedy’s side on this issue. The latest edition of its guidebook, Mandate for Leadership, contains this passage:
In the normal course of criminal investigations, state and local law enforcement should neither ignore immigration law nor hesitate to cooperate with federal immigration officials. Section 287(g) of the INA provides adequate authority for state and local enforcement to investigate, detain, and arrest aliens on civil and criminal grounds. An existing Section 287(g) pilot program with the State of Florida could serve as a national model. Congress should appropriate funds for the DHS to expand Section 287(g) initiatives, the DHS should encourage other states to adopt programs based on the Florida model, and states should use the Florida initiative as a model for expanding their own domestic counterterrorism programs and improving cooperation with federal authorities.
Like Gonzales, Bush’s choice for Secretary of Agriculture, Mike Johanns, has a dismal record on immigration enforcement. While Governor of Nebraska, he protected large meatpacking and agricultural interests in his state who employ thousands of illegal immigrants, according to the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR):
During 1998 and 1999, the Immigration and Naturalization Service launched a campaign known as Operation Vanguard in which they conducted audits of Nebraska meatpacking plant personnel files. The operation successfully drove-off many illegal aliens who were employed in these processing plants. Gov. Johanns, who has accepted large campaign contributions from large agri-businesses (2002 Campaign Finance Statement), stepped in on behalf of these contributors and pressured the U.S. Department of Justice to end these enforcement efforts.
Mark Krikorian of the Center for Immigration Studies commented on this incident a couple of years ago in this National Review Online piece:
[Operation Vanguard], launched in late 1998, focused on all the meat-packing plants in Nebraska (instead of raiding one and letting the others benefit from the disruption of their competitor). Rather than breaking in the doors, the INS simply subpoenaed the companies’ personnel records, which they took back to the office and verified. The INS then asked to interview those employees who appeared to be unauthorizedblog comments powered by Disqus~ For the latest breaking news, be sure to join Michelle's Email List:Posted in: Uncategorized
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