Last week ICE arrested Roberto Galo, the unlicensed Honduran who killed a young man named Drew Rosenberg in a traffic crash in November 2010, and is detaining him without bond. Galo's arrest is appropriate but, incredibly, despite the fact that Galo repeatedly violated California driving laws and killed someone, ICE had to make an exception to its policies in order to take him into custody and seek his removal.
Galo is an illegal immigrant who has been living here legally since the late 1990s under a grant of Temporary Protected Status (TPS). Beneficiaries of TPS may apply for driver's licenses; but Galo could not get one because he failed the driving test three times. Under immigration law, Galo no longer qualifies for TPS after having been convicted of two misdemeanors (vehicular manslaughter and unlicensed driving) stemming from his responsibility for the crash that took Drew Rosenberg's life.
But under current policies, offenders like Galo are not supposed to be put on the path to removal. USCIS, which administers the TPS program, has directed its officers to try to reclassify some misdemeanors as "infractions" in order to allow these offenders to stay.
Under newly tightened ICE guidelines, ICE agents and officers are directed to arrest only those offenders with at least three misdemeanors. Lesser offenders may be charged only if the offenses involve violence, sexual abuse, drunk driving, weapons, drugs, terrorism, gang activity, and the like. Vehicular manslaughter did not make the list of offenses that this administration considers to be serious enough to result in deportation, especially in combination with the "minor" offense of unlicensed driving. For more on how sanctuary policies in California contributed to this episode, see Debra Saunders' columns in the San Francisco Chronicle.
Initially, ICE officials told staffers for Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), who represents Drew Rosenberg's parents in Congress, that they would not consider removing Galo until he applied to renew his TPS, which was good through July 2013, and maybe not even then because his crimes were not serious enough. It took more than two months and many letters, phone calls, and e-mails from Drew's father to get the DHS agencies to apply the law.
This case illustrates that ICE's guidelines are out of whack with their professed emphasis on public safety and are far too narrowly drawn to produce meaningful immigration law enforcement. Even as ICE claims to have removed more criminals than ever before, it is also releasing more criminals than ever before. Similarly, USCIS seems committed more to bending the rules on behalf of unqualified applicants than on applying the laws.
Not exactly a confidence-builder leading up to a discussion of "Comprehensive Immigration Reform".
Moreover, I can't help but wonder if ICE ever considered that imposing such arbitrary and unnecessary thresholds like "three misdemeanors" might have the perverse and unfortunate result of causing some state and local law enforcement agencies to feel like they have to pile on charges when removable aliens are arrested, just to get ICE to exercise its authority and responsibility to enforce immigration law.
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