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The blue line and the border

January 17, 2006|Allan Mansoor | ALLAN MANSOOR, an Orange County sheriff's deputy, is mayor of Costa Mesa.

THERE HAS BEEN a lot of discussion about a recent vote by the Costa Mesa City Council regarding illegal immigration. To the best of my knowledge, no other city has approved such a proposal, and I would like to clarify what it does and does not do.

Currently, when someone is arrested for breaking the law, most officers are not authorized to ask about the suspect's immigration status. Costa Mesa's proposal would involve training the police gang detail, the special enforcement detail, investigators and possibly custody personnel to enforce immigration laws when a major crime is involved. The authority for it comes from a law passed by Congress, and the training would be done under the guidance of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE. It is similar to what is being proposed at the county level and will focus on the most dangerous offenders.

Officers would simply carry out the policy through the course of their daily duties if they arrest someone for a major crime. There would be no sweeps for enforcement of immigration laws alone, as some have been concerned about. In other words, there must be another crime involved first.

Often, if people are in this country illegally and break a law, they are either cited and released or, if convicted, released back into society after they serve their time. It is inaccurate to think they are all deported. Part of the reason for this is insufficient staffing. According to a county report, there are only 2,000 agents nationwide assigned to ICE who are charged with locating and apprehending violators of immigration laws. The proposed policy would also allow our officers to start the deportation process, something that only ICE agents can now do.

So this type of enforcement will make the city safer for everyone, even those who are here illegally but are otherwise law-abiding. According to our city staff report, "the training under ICE would focus on immigration law, civil rights, intercultural relations and the issues and illegalities surrounding racial profiling."

There is a lot of support for the enforcement of our immigration laws, and it is time we follow through with it. I believe that this is the very least the American public expects from its elected officials and law enforcement.

According to the county's draft proposal, "there are 400,000 individuals in the United States who have received and ignored their final deportation orders and ... 80,000 of these offenders had criminal convictions." The report also says that of our current state prison population of 162,000 inmates, 17,650 are convicted foreign nationals and 1,575 are convicted foreign nationals who have committed felonies in Orange County.

The federal government has failed to do its job, but that doesn't mean we should sit idly by and do nothing. My goal is to make Costa Mesa safer, bring greater awareness to the facts of this issue and encourage other cities to join in a cooperative effort to make this proposal more effective.

I fully support legal immigration and respect those who come here legally. This is not about race but about criminal offenses and legal status. I am an American without a hyphen. My parents immigrated legally from Egypt and Sweden, and this policy would be applied equally to someone from the Middle East or Europe.

We operate under the rule of law, and it's time we got back to it. Americans are standing up and asking their elected officials to enforce the law.

This policy is simply one more tool that the police will have to identify and help deport dangerous people who are involved in major crimes, and it will make our cities safer places to live. Just ask a victim.

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