The following editorial appeared recently in the Dallas Morning News:
Few things can make a law-abiding citizen angrier than reading about a violent crime committed by an illegal immigrant. Regardless of where you stand in the illegal immigration debate, there's no justification for allowing serious lawbreakers to remain in this country.
That's why U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and cooperating local law enforcement agencies deserve credit for a significant spike in criminal deportations. According to The Associated Press, ICE deported nearly 393,000 people in fiscal 2010, roughly half of whom were deemed criminals. Most had committed drug crimes or were caught driving drunk.
It's the other, non-criminal half that is drawing fire, even though President Barack Obama describes two-thirds of them as having been caught at the border or deemed repeat immigration violators. Critics say the administration is being too aggressive against illegal immigrants, and Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., was arrested this week outside the White House during a pro-immigration demonstration.
Boston Mayor Thomas Menino is threatening to withdraw from ICE's Secure Communities program, in which police share data with federal authorities to identify illegal immigrants. The fear, Menino and others say, is that local police may be using any enforcement pretext to sweep out as many illegal immigrants as possible — not just serious criminals.
This newspaper doesn't think any city should welcome illegal immigrants. The question is how far is too far when the popular mandate is to get tough. Last month, Texas lawmakers correctly rejected a proposal that tried to go too far in expanding police immigration enforcement powers and punish so-called sanctuary cities.
Secure Communities has undergone adjustments to reduce overzealous enforcement. Further adjustments may be necessary to ensure that non-criminal immigrants, such as victims or witnesses, aren't deported simply because they tried to help police nab a criminal.
We favor a balanced approach that includes participation in Secure Communities to convey a consistent, unified message: The only way to migrate is the legal way. The net should be strengthened at the border, in cities and in the workplace.
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But that's not enough. The U.S. also must offer realistic hopes for those taking the legal route. A responsive visa system must help applicants get the permits they need quickly. Employers must have assurances that a large pool of legal migrant workers will be available to meet their demands for cheap labor.
The missing ingredient is comprehensive immigration reform. Until Congress gets serious about it, deportation-based enforcement programs will only chip away at the problem while continuing to draw fire from the likes of Menino and Gutierrez.
(Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.)