Friday, October 20, 2006

Group pushes for Miami-Dade to be an illegal haven.

Immigration: At this point this would be making it official.

With the debate on immigration reform stalled in Congress, Miami immigrant advocates looked elsewhere Wednesday for inspiration: to such cities as San Francisco that have declared themselves ''sanctuaries'' where local police are barred from participating in certain kinds of immigration enforcement. Flanked by rows of restless children wearing shirts that read ''Don't make me an orphan,'' Nora Sandigo was clear on what she wanted. ''Local politicians need to stand up and take care of the children in their own house,'' said Sandigo, executive director of the immigrant advocacy group American Fraternity. The group wants the Miami-Dade County Commission to declare the county a sanctuary. The designation means county police would be prohibited from asking suspects about their immigration status during a traffic stop or arrest, and county officers would only participate in immigration raids targeting immigrants with criminal records and those who entered the country illegally. The ''sanctuary'' designation proposal is part of a larger push by American Fraternity to protect undocumented immigrants. Earlier this month, the group filed a class-action lawsuit in Miami federal court on behalf of the U.S.-born children of those immigrants, arguing that their constitutional rights are being violated by the constant threat that their parents will be deported. With legislation on comprehensive immigration law reform stalled in Washington, such action is necessary, Fraternity president Alfonso Oviedo said. ''For all practical purposes, I believe Dade County already is a sanctuary, but we want them to make it official so . . . that there will not be abuses,'' he said.
The commissioners need time to mull the offer over because they are stupid.
Under current policy, if Miami-Dade police officers discover a suspect is an undocumented immigrant, they can call immigration officials regardless of whether the suspect is charged with a crime. ''We don't proactively seek out individuals we believe are here illegally,'' police spokesman Roy Rutland said. ``However, if in the course of an investigation or an incident we have a reason to believe a person is an illegal immigrant, then we may contact ICE and detain them.'' `CASE-BY-CASE BASIS' The department does not have a strict policy on when an officer is allowed to ask about immigration status, Rutland said. ''We handle that on a case-by-case basis,'' he said. Several county commissioners said they would need more information before committing to the sanctuary designation. ''I'm open to hearing about it, but I need to know more details,'' said Commissioner Jose ''Pepe'' Diaz, who was at the American Fraternity meeting on Wednesday. Sanctuary cities have drawn fire from Congress, with House members trying to pass legislation that would, in some cases, deny some kinds of federal funding to local governments with sanctuary policies. ''They're breaking federal law because the people are here illegally,'' said Carlos Espinosa, spokesman for Rep. Tom Tancredo, a Colorado Republican who has repeatedly proposed anti-sanctuary legislation. ``Cities should not be allowed to set their own foreign policy by granting amnesty to illegals.''

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