PEP Helps Ensure No Immigration Enforcement

John Vinson's picture

By John Vinson

John is a Senior Writing Fellow with CAPS. A long-time advocate of conservation and responsible use of natural resources, John is president of the American Immigration Control Foundation.

The writer's views are his own. 

July 20, 2015

President Franklin Roosevelt declared December 7, 1941, the date of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, as “a day that would live in infamy.” A much more recent infamous day involving a U.S. president was November 20, 2014, when Barack Obama ignored the constitutional separation of powers and unilaterally proclaimed legal status (amnesty) for approximately 5 million illegal aliens. That was the major infamy that day, but not the only one. Obama also ended the congressionally mandated Secure Communities Program.

Under this program, local and state law enforcement agencies sent fingerprints of people arrested to the federal government to determine their legal status. If it turned out that they were illegal aliens, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) could have those agencies detain the aliens until ICE came to take them into custody. It was a successful example of federal, state and local teamwork to protect American communities from potentially dangerous lawbreakers.

Francisco Sanchez
Now charged with murder,
illegal alien Francisco Sanchez chose to live in
San Francisco because of the sanctuary policy.

But Obama decided to replace it with what he called the Priority Enforcement Program (PEP). It’s basically a highly scaled-back version of Secure Communities, one that is “riddled with loopholes,” in the words of Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) who heads the House Judiciary Committee. Unlike Secure Communities, ICE can’t ask for detainment of illegal aliens until after they have been convicted of the crime for which they were arrested. It is not enough that they are in the country illegally. Sometimes they may go free until their day in court.

Furthermore, PEP significantly restricts the categories of crimes that permit detainment. As Goodlatte pointed out, “[PEP] ignore[s] entire categories of removable criminal aliens defined by Congress in the Immigration and Nationality Act. Among them are fraud, drug possession, theft offenses and most crimes of moral turpitude. Also excluded are misdemeanors the administration doesn’t define as “significant.”

On top of this, PEP removes even the possibility – which there was under Secure Communities – that localities and states could be legally obligated to work with federal enforcement. Under pressure from political and economic interests, a number of localities have declared that they are sanctuaries for illegal aliens and have striven to cooperate as little as possible with ICE. As is finally being broadly reported, one sanctuary city is San Francisco where Francisco Sanchez, an illegal alien with seven felony convictions and five deportations, was recently charged with killing a young woman. The accused killer said that he picked San Francisco as a place to reside because of its sanctuary policy.

Congressman Goodlatte acidly observed that “The only priority contained in the Priority Enforcement Program is to ensure that our immigration laws are not enforced in the interior of the United States. By scrapping a law enforcement tool that [kept] our communities safe and replacing it with a new program that permits the release of criminal aliens, President Obama is needlessly endangering our communities.”

And sad to say, even when the feds do bring illegal aliens into custody, they may be released back into American communities instead of being deported. In 2013 the administration freed 36,000 alien criminals. Noted Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA), 1,000 of them went on to commit serious crimes, including terroristic threats, various types of assault, robbery, gang activity and rape.

President Obama justified his amnesty edict and general lack of immigration law enforcement by claiming that he wanted to focus available resources on deporting the most serious offenders.

Obviously, Obama is not even trying to do that.

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