Monday, March 02, 2009

One Month Later

It took the "center-left" editorial board of the Los Angeles Times just about a month to get around to addressing the issues raised in one of their own news articles on immigration. Back on February 5, 2009, I posted on the article published in LAT on the same date. The substance of the article was that although the number of criminal immigrants arrested by ICE was dramatically up, the overwhelming number of those arrests involved only the crime of being in the country illegally, and not more dangerous crimes which affect the security of the nation. Today the editorial board decided it was time to follow up, four weeks later.

...In 2006, immigration officials raised arrest quotas for fugitives by a factor of eight, and then eliminated a requirement that 75% of those arrested had to be wanted for crimes other than entering or remaining in the country illegally. ICE officials say that when the agency targets a criminal fugitive, it often chances on other immigrants eligible for deportation, making it relatively easy to boost the arrest rate.

We're not suggesting that ICE should look the other way when it finds illegal immigrants. Rather, we're arguing for a renewed emphasis on the most dangerous criminals. Under ICE policies, illegal immigrants are targeted for arrest based on the dangers they are thought to pose. In Category 1 are those who pose threats to national security. They are followed by those considered threats to the community, fugitives who are violent criminals, fugitives with criminal records and, last, in Category 5, immigrants with no known offenses other than being here illegally. That is a logical set of priorities, but they clearly aren't being followed. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has issued directives for an assessment of the fugitive operations program, and we hope it will bring ICE back to its previous mission.

Why the delay?

Admittedly the economy and President Obama's proposals to rejuvenate it have been hot topics during that period, as has been the California budgetary crisis. Still, in a city and county where the immigrant population, legal or illegal, is high, the subject is one that deeply affects us all, especially during economic hardship. Surely some space could have been found on the editorial page even two weeks ago to keep the issue before the citizens of the area the paper serves.

The editorial, had it been published right after the article appeared, might also have served to keep the pressure on the new administration, including Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano, to review the last administration's heavy handed treatment of immigrants and to make the appropriate changes. Waiting four weeks to take a stand weakens that stand because it isn't anchored to anything tangible.

This is not a case of "better late than never," because one wonders why the editorial board even bothered. It falls more into the category of the absurd, like endorsing Barack Obama for president after he's been sworn in.

Sorry, Los Angeles Times: fail.

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