2010-04-08 / Sam Bari

Is it possible to be legally illegal with impunity?

You can’t beat a system you can’t understand
By Sam Bari

Once in a while, my suspicious nature gets the best of me and I cannot help but wonder if people in certain areas of government think things through before they make rules.

I am concerned about immigration reform, a controversial issue that has the country deeply divided. Those in favor of giving amnesty to people not legally residing in this country erroneously refer to them as “undocumented aliens.” The fact that they are indeed in this country “illegally” appears to be of little consequence.

Without doubt, the best way to resolve the immigration issue is a monumental problem at best, especially when the predicament was caused by gross negligence for a long period on the government’s part.

I am not an authority on this subject, and I am not endorsing a position on the issue. However, between now and when a legal solution is decided, I would like to think that the interim rules would make a modicum of common sense.

In the state of Florida, as of March 31, 2010, to be eligible for, or to renew a driver’s license or government identification card, state law requires applicants to present the following documents: An original birth certificate; a matching Social Security card; proof of residence; and/or other proof of citizenship or legal immigrant status.

For obvious reasons, the policy sounds logical. Now for the flipside of the proverbial coin: In sanctuary cities like Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., San Francisco, Calif. and Providence, R.I., police and municipal employees are not permitted to ask anyone about their immigration status, even when they are arrested for committing a crime.

The only time that proof of legal status can be requested is if a person is applying for an ID card or a driver’s license.

A sanctuary city is a municipality in the U.S. that does not allow the use of municipal funds or resources to enforce federal immigration laws. The designation “sanctuary city” has no legal meaning.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, this actually happened: In July 2008, a criminal gang member from MS 13, an undocumented immigrant named Edwin Ramos, allegedly murdered Anthony Bologna and his two sons, Michael and Matthew. The crimes were committed in broad daylight during a traffic altercation in San Francisco.

MS 13, according to the FBI, is one of the most brutal gangs on the planet and certainly the largest, with more than 36,000 members. Salvadoran immigrants founded the criminal organization in the early 1980s in Los Angeles. The gang quickly established a reputation as a savage contender in the illegal drug trade, as well as in the businesses of white slavery and extortion.

Ramos already had convictions for two felonies that included a gang-related assault of a young man on a bus and the attempted robbery of a pregnant woman when he was 17 years old, before the alleged murders. However, due to San Francisco’s sanctuary city policy established by Mayor Gavin Newsom, Ramos was never reported to federal immigration authorities.

The city rejected claims of liability. This resulted in family members of the victims filing a lawsuit that is still in litigation.

This is not an isolated case. On July 31, 2008, Ivan Miranda, a 14-year-old boy, was murdered and nearly decapitated in a sword attack, again in San Francisco. An undocumented immigrant from Honduras named Rony Aguilera, whose street name was “Guerrillero,” was arrested for the attack. Aguilera had also been arrested in an assault case in 2007, but was never reported to federal immigration officials, due to San Francisco’s sanctuary policy.

In early December, Phoenix Mayor Phillip Gordon announced the reversal of Phoenix’s sanctuary city policy when he said that the city would no longer back a policy barring police officers from asking immigration status. He said that he believes the action put Phoenix in line with federal law because it is unlawful to prevent a government official from contacting federal immigration authorities, pursuant to 8 U.S.C. 1373.

If that is the case, then 31 sanctuary cities in this country are in violation of a federal law. Something is drastically wrong with this picture. Blatant violation of the law is supported by “officially sanctioned” defiance of federal ordinances on the part of local municipalities. Our government is fighting within on federal, state and municipal levels.

Many countries would call this defiance an act of dissidence; some would perceive it as treasonous. It is certainly part of a system we can’t understand.

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