Illegal Immigrant Violence Prompts Vow for Crackdown in Massachusetts
Massachusetts state representatives are vowing to push for tough immigration laws after an illegal immigrant suspected of killing two people was discovered to be in deportation proceedings. Fernando Guerrero-Lara, an immigrant from the the Dominican Republic, was awaiting a March 2011 preliminary removal hearing in U.S. Immigration Court in Texas, when he and a second man allegedly killed two people.
State politicians argue they need to do something to keep illegal immigrants out of the state, the Boston Herald reported today:
“What was he doing walking the streets?” an indignant state Rep. Brad Hill (R-Ipswich) demanded to know of Fernando Guerrero-Lara, 27. “If the federal government isn’t going to do their job, then I guess we’ll have to start doing it ourselves, state by state.” [...]
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has refused to say why Guerrero-Lara, a Dominican immigrant, was not in custody pending his preliminary March 7, 2011, deportation hearing.
State Rep. Jeffrey Perry (R-Sandwich), who is running for retiring U.S. Rep. William Delahunt’s seat, pushed this year to pass more stringent hurdles blocking illegal aliens from receiving state services. “This is a prime example of the impact illegal immigration has on our country,” Perry said. “It’s absolutely a matter of public safety.”
Massachusetts politicians acknowledged states have few options in restricting immigration, but argued they could block state services to illegal immigrants to drive some out. A federal appeals court overturned a Hazleton, Pa., immigration law yesterday penalizing landlords and employers who worked with illegal immigrants, claiming the it preempted federal immigration law.
But local and state officials continue to argue for anti-immigration laws, often spurred on by stories of crimes committed by illegal immigrants. Arizona’s SB 1070 immigration law was pushed after the murder of rancher Robert Krentz, who authorities said was murdered by a smuggler. (Authorities now suspect Krentz was killed by someone in the U.S., not Mexico.) The August death of a nun who was hit by an illegal immigrant drunk driver prompted changes to the way Virginia gives out driver’s licenses. In the Colorado gubernatorial race, Tom Tancredo, a vocal supporter anti-immigration laws who is running as an independent, has used stories of illegal immigrant-caused deaths to argue for more police checks on immigration status.
It’s understandable politicians feel the need to respond to problems of crime — particularly given the argument that the criminals shouldn’t be in the country in the first place. But the federal government’s focus has been different: Unable to deport all of the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the country, Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials argue they are prioritizing dangerous illegal immigrants. “There are three priorities,” ICE chief John Morton told ProPublica in a Q&A released today. “The first priority is criminal offenders.”
Perception of illegal immigrant violence often shapes policy more than the reality, Judith Gans, who immigration at the University of Arizona, told the New York Times in June:
“If an illegal immigrant commits a crime, this confirms our view that illegal immigrants are criminals,” Ms. Gans said. “If an illegal immigrant doesn’t commit a crime, either they just didn’t get caught or it’s a fluke of the situation.”
Ms. Gans noted that sponsors of Arizona’s controversial immigration enforcement law have made careers of promising to rid the state of illegal immigrants through tough legislation.
“Their repeated characterization of illegal immigrants as criminals — easy to do since they broke immigration laws — makes it easy for people to ignore statistics,” she said.