Bill Would Empower Police to Arrest Deportation Absconders

Chairman John Hostettler’s (R.-Ind.) House Subcommittee on Immigration will hold a hearing on the Clear Law Enforcement for Criminal Alien Removal Act (CLEAR) in September, making it one of the few pieces of immigration enforcement legislation that may get a vote on the House floor in this Congress. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Charlie Norwood (R.-Ga.), would make it easier for local law enforcement agencies to enforce some immigration laws and reimburse them for the cost of doing so.

“Miguel Angelo Gordoba is a child molester and illegally in our country. In August 2001, he finished a four-year sentence at Rivers State Prison for molesting a 3-year-old girl in Alma, Ga.,” said Norwood in introducing the bill July 9. “On the day he finished his sentence, you would think he would be picked up and deported. As unbelievable as it sounds, the INS-now the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement [BICE]-didn’t have his paperwork done. . . . Mr. Gordoba is one of 80,000 criminal aliens with standing deportation orders that are on the loose within our borders.”

Criminal aliens are those who have been convicted of a crime other than living in this country illegally.

“There are upwards of 400,000 individuals who have received final deportation orders that are hiding in our communities,” said Norwood. Estimates of the total number of illegal aliens residing in this country range from seven to 11 million, but they are not the targets of this bill.

The bill got a boost July 23 when Michael Garcia, acting director of BICE, called for more local law enforcement involvement against illegal aliens. “We are law enforcement officers and we have to enforce the law,” he said.

Duke Hipp, Norwood’s spokesman, said the bill would cost about $2.6 billion annually. But, he said, “The fact of the matter is, they are arresting and re-arresting criminal aliens over and over again. That’s a drain on the system.”

The CLEAR Act would not force any state or local agency to participate, said Hipp. But it would explicitly empower them to arrest illegal aliens, while providing that the 400,000 deportation “absconders” be listed on the National Criminal Information Center (NCIC) database that local law enforcement can access.

Hipp said the bill would reimburse local agencies for the cost to “house and detain criminal aliens,” as well as for the cost of training officers in enforcing immigration law.

The National Sheriffs Association, the Southern States Police Benevolent Association, and the Law Enforcement Alliance of America have endorsed the bill.