An incident last week in Colorado illustrates the abject failure of the Obama administration’s highly touted Secure Communities Program as a vehicle for catching and prosecuting illegal aliens booked into local jails.
A 40-year-old Mexican illegal alien named Ever Olivos-Gutierrez is now in jail awaiting trial for first degree murder, charged with killing a man who had the misfortune of being in Gutierrez’s path as he ran a red light at 80 miles an hour while drunk. The fact that the17-year-old victim is also Hispanic is a small footnote to this sad story.
This horrific accident need not have happened and would not have happened if Gutierrez had been removed from the U.S. at any point in the last 12 years and sent back to Mexico. The reason this never happened tells us a lot about our so-called immigration enforcement system.
The much-praised federal Secure Communities Program (SCP) did not detect or deal with this walking (or driving) time bomb even though he had been arrested and put in jail many times in several different jurisdictions. Why not? Because assuming his finger prints were run through the ICE database after he was booked into jail, which is the crux of the SCP detection system, ICE would not have identified him as an illegal alien because he is not in their database. You may ask, why not? The reason is that he has never before been identified as an illegal alien – never before deported, never caught at the border and turned back home.
It’s not as if Gutierrez has been “flying under the radar” and successfully avoiding any encounter with law enforcement. Just the opposite is true, and that is the problem. Granted, we cannot expect local police to be out looking for illegal aliens to arrest, but this man was wearing so many red flags he could have been hired as a rodeo clown.
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Gutierrez had at least five previous arrests in Colorado over the past 12 years, all of them related to driving without a license and driving while intoxicated. But despite the fact that he has never had a valid driver’s license, no one in local law enforcement ever asked ICE to come interview the fellow to determine if he is here illegally. It would take an interview to make that determination, and ICE has professionals who are good at that – when asked. ICE insists they were never asked to take a close look at Gutierrez.
This case is eerily similar to another first degree murder case almost 10 years ago. That murderer had been in traffic court less than a month previous where his Mexican driver’s license was not questioned – despite the fact that under state law, the use of a foreign driver’s license is unlawful after a person takes up employment. The man’s employer? He worked in a restaurant owned by the mayor.
ICE’s Secure Communities Program is full of holes, and the total reliance on the fingerprint screen is only one of them. But believe it or not, it’s not the main problem with SCP.
Here’s the real kicker. Even when ICE identifies a person as an illegal alien after the fingerprint check and tells that to the local sheriff’s office running the jail, it is a “local option” to act on that information on a case by case basis – an option for the sheriff and also an option for the local ICE office.
In the SCP operation, ICE does not automatically come to the jail and interview someone identified as unlawfully in the country, or, heaven forbid, take him into custody. ICE would do that only in a very small number of cases where the crime involved is considered a “violent felony.” A serial drunk driver who never had a driver’s license does not attract ICE’s attention until he kills someone.
So, let’s ask the basic question that applies to the operation of the Secure Communities Program in all 50 states: Does ICE take action on illegal aliens who are charged in local jurisdictions with driving without a license or driving under the influence of alcohol? The answer is no, not often and not routinely. Thus, DUI offenders like Gutierrez are treated like citizens. They will pay a fine, maybe serve a short jail term or one or two years of probation, and then go on about their business – without any intervention from ICE.
The grievous inadequacies of the SCP is only one problem in our rapidly decaying immigration enforcement system, but it is a major one because citizens have been lulled to sleep by the name “secure communities” and the pretense that it is fixing the problem. No, it is not doing that – specially not in states that proudly call themselves Sanctuary States, where SCP’s “local option” means business as usual.
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