Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Costa Mesa Immigration Crackdown Snares Both Petty Offenders and Serious Criminals

The City of Costa Mesa, in Orange County, California, has taken a get-tough approach to immigration in recent years. Much of city's local politics has focused on the illegal alien debate, and Mayor Allan Mansoor raised the stakes in enforcement when he authorized in 2006 city police officers to check the federal immigration status of accused suspects in the local criminal justice system.

The beefed-up approach has been effective, and
according to this Los Angeles Times article both petty offenders and tougher criminals have been apprehended and processed for deportation under the crackdown:

In a city that has clashed loudly and publicly over immigration laws, the arrest of Marcelino Tzir Tzul underscored the worst fears in Costa Mesa's Latino community.

The 37-year-old illegal immigrant from Guatemala was picked up for riding his bicycle on the wrong side of the street, brought before a federal agent at the city jail and then shipped to a federal lockup to await his likely deportation.

For months, Latino activists had worried that Costa Mesa's decision to become one of the nation's first cities to enforce federal immigration laws would result in people such as Tzir being swept off the streets.

"This is exactly what we feared," said Amin David, who heads Los Amigos of Orange County, a Latino advocacy group.

But others, including the mayor of Costa Mesa, applaud the crackdown, even if it means that people who have committed minor crimes are caught in the process."

I believe illegal immigration is wrong. It's breaking the law," said Mayor Allan Mansoor, an Orange County sheriff's deputy.

During a three-week period in December, 46 Latino men picked up in Costa Mesa were taken to the Mira Loma Detention Center in Lancaster to await deportation hearings. Half were held on misdemeanor charges.
Here's what happened to Tzir:

Wearing work boots and a blue sweatshirt stained from the previous day's work, Tzir rode his blue mountain bike down Placentia Avenue, through the heart of the town's Latino community. When he turned left on Hamilton Street, an officer stopped him and told him he was riding on the wrong side of the road. He also didn't have a bicycle license.

Without an ID, Tzir was taken to the city jail, where a federal agent recently assigned to the city determined he was in the country illegally. Before he could alert family or friends, he was shipped to the lockup in Lancaster to await a deportation hearing.

"The sin I committed was to enter this country illegally," Tzir said in a recent jailhouse interview in Spanish. "I regret the pain I have caused my family, but I will leave with my head held high because I know that all I did here was to work hard."

Although Tzir's crime was minor, many of those swept up in Costa Mesa in December were arrested on serious charges. Of 20 arrest records the city was able to provide, most involved men in their mid-20s charged with crimes such as selling drugs and burglary. One involved a 19-year-old accused of having sex with a minor.
Costa Mesa's doing the right thing, and hopefully more municipalities will get with the program. The difference between minor and serious offenses by illegal aliens is an emotional, but not legal, distinction. It doesn't matter that people like Tzir are hard working and low profile -- they're in the country illegally and subject to federal immigration enforcement procedures, including deportation. Obviously, alien rights activists oppose strict enforcement, perhaps thinking that illegal immigrants are entitled to be here, because the American Southwest was "stolen" from Mexico.

I've blogged on the local angle of the immigration debate before, for example,
when an Oregon state judge billed Mexican President Vicente Fox for the costs of incarcerating Mexican criminals in Umatilla County jails, as well as the case of the Minutemen in Laguna Beach, California, who were successful in shutting down a local illegal alien day labor center.

No comments: