Saturday, August 25, 2007

New Jersey AG orders all local police officers in state to check immigration status

New Jersey Attorney General Anne Milgram has ordered all local police officers to ask the immigration status of suspects charged with serious crimes, and to notify federal immigration authorities if they believe the suspect is in the country illegally. The policy applies to suspects arrested for specific offenses and for driving while intoxicated.

Milgram's announcement came after questions arose about how Jose Carranza, an illegal immigrant from Peru, the chief suspect in the Newark schoolyard killings, was released on bail earlier this year after being charged with child rape.

Carranza's history in the U.S. is not very diffeent from that of Alejandro Rivera Gamboa, an illegal who was arrested four times on drunken driving charges in Oregon. Until police charged him last week with choking a 15-year-old girl to death, immigration authorities had never heard his name. Another illegal, Juan Lizcano, had at least two run-ins with the law in Texas. Both went unnoticed by immigration officials until Lizcano, who entered the country illegally in 2001, was charged with killing Dallas Police Officer Brian Jackson in 2005.

Most Americans believe that illegal immigrants sitting in jail on criminal charges will soon be deported. Indeed, federal law dictates that people in the United States unlawfully be sent back to their homelands if they're convicted of crimes. But in the nation's overwhelmed and disjointed immigration system, that is hardly the case.

Even when ICE is contacted and the detainee is ordered removed from the country, deportation isn't a sure thing. "The average person would expect that criminals would be detained and removed, and they are shocked when something like this happens," said Jessica Vaughan, a senior policy analyst with the Center for Immigration Studies.

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