Thursday, Feb. 7, 2008

Nothing wrong with checking immigration status

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Suppose a deputy with the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office pulls you over for speeding. The deputy would run your license plate and name to ensure the car is not stolen and that you have no warrants out for your arrest.

Suppose you’ve been arrested for shoplifting, fighting someone at a bar, or even buying drugs. Deputies would run your name to see if you have any outstanding warrants elsewhere around the country.

We see no difference between those scenarios, and deputies in the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office checking the immigration status of people they arrest.

That’s why we support the initiative announced Monday by Sheriff Chuck Jenkins (R) to train 26 deputies in immigration law, intercultural relations and the use of the Department of Homeland Security's database to positively identify whether those they arrest are illegal immigrants.

Officials with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), a branch of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, are conducting the training at the Frederick County Law Enforcement Center.

Under the program, deputies will work with ICE investigators to determine the immigration status of those they arrest. If suspects are found to be here illegally, they will go before a federal administrative law judge, who will evaluate and determine if the individual should be deported.

Immigration supporters, including the Frederick County Chapter of the NAACP and Casa De Maryland, descended on Frederick the day after Jenkins’ announcement, and denounced the initiative.

They said that the Sheriff’s Office should not involve itself in illegal immigration because it is a federal issue. They fear the program will lead to racial profiling, and that police will target legal immigrants.

They even question the motives of the 26 deputies who volunteered for the training, fearing that they have a hidden agenda.

But we don’t see how it will lead to racial profiling as long as deputies check the immigration status of everyone they arrest.

And we do not question the motives of the 26 deputies who volunteered for the program anymore than we would question the motives of a deputy who volunteered for the narcotics division, or any other duty within the Sheriff’s Office.

Yes, immigration is a federal issue, but that does not mean deputies should turn a blind eye to people who break federal law. If we all operated under similar reasoning, then people who witness crimes should not call the police to report it and testify against the criminals because it is a police issue, not a civilian matter.

Illegal immigration is one of the toughest issues facing our society today, and a particularly difficult one because we are a nation of immigrants. It seems hypocritical to try to stop illegal immigration when the majority of us are not native to this land.

But we cannot ignore those who break immigration law, even though we can think of far more serious laws that American citizens break every day.

If illegal immigrants break no other laws while they are here, deputies should leave them alone so they have a shot at a better life and an opportunity to contribute above the board to this great nation.

But if that person does something else that warrants their arrest, deputies are justified in determining if they are in the country illegally.

Take the time to vote Tuesday

We will have the chance Tuesday to do something that makes many people around the world envious: vote for the people who run our government.

Yet many of us take voting for granted, and see it more as an annoyance than a responsibility.

We wake up too late to vote early in the morning, and traffic chips away at our morale on the way home. Some of us can vote during a lunch break, but many of us work an hour away from home and don’t have the luxury of voting in the middle of the day.

We can vote on our way home from work, but what about dinner for the kids? And who’s going to make sure they do their homework if we’re out voting?

Plus, who likes to stand in line to do anything?

Yes, you can find any excuse to not vote on Tuesday, but if you don’t make it to the polls, do you not also surrender your right to complain about the people in office? Voter turnout is usually dismal during a primary election, though this year should be higher than two years ago because we are voting for president.

And while you think about your presidential vote, remember that you will also have your choice for the Board of Education. The school board spends a lot of your money, and our children spend a lot of their time in school, so little is as important as the people who help run the system.

Log onto⁄votersguide08 for our guide to this year’s primary, but let that be the starting point of your research.

Democracy works best when our leaders are elected by the majority of eligible voters, not just the majority of people who voted. See you at the polls.