The San Diego City Counsel voted yesterday 7-1 for a resolution to repeal Arizona’s new “immigration law.” The Arizona law, as amended, allows for questioning of immigration status only if stopping, detaining or arresting a person while enforcing another law. The earlier law had referred to a “contact” with police. While waxing indignant that police should not be “enforcing” immigration law in Arizona, the San Diego City Counsel ignores what the police do in San Diego routinely – handling over aliens to immigration authorities whom they encounter while enforcing other laws. I personally am aware of aliens handed over to ICE after calling in an abandoned car where they work and while picking of a citizen child accused of shoplifting. Neither alien was stopped by police because of their own criminal conduct, but rather each was arrested and handed over to ICE after being encountered despite no criminal activity of their own. I am also aware of many aliens handed over to ICE after a traffic stop for a driving violation, and more egregiously, handed over to ICE when simply driving and looking nervous or not nervous enough. San Diego politicians live in a glass house; they should not throw stones.
Courage, on the other hand, is shown by New York’s governor, David A. Paterson, who initiated a program to issue governor’s pardons to some non-citizens who are criminals. Many crimes render aliens, including permanent residents, deportable. Many are not waivable – meaning certain deportation. However, for some, but not all, of these crimes, a pardon by a state governor wards off deportation. See INA § 237(a)(2)A)(vi). Lamenting the new, zealous detection, apprehension, and removal of permanent residents for crimes, sometimes minor and often years and years ago, the New York governor has decided to try to identify such aliens and pardon them before ICE can deport them. That is not the hollow words of a cynical local government, but the courageous act of a man using state law to solve an immigration problem. Perhaps another prominent governor, himself once an alien, and probably an illegal one at that, should consider such a policy. Posted May 4, 2010.