Friday, August 15, 2008

You Shall Not Co-operate with Federal Authorities in Enforcing Federal Law

The purpose of Hartford’s recent illegal immigration ordinance, we are told, “is to codify the policies of the City of Hartford regarding its residents and usage of City services as it relates to their immigration status.”

It’s always nice to have everyone on the same page.

The ordinance provides that, “Any service provided by a City of Hartford department shall be made available to residents, regardless of immigration status, unless such agency is required by Federal law to deny eligibility for such service to residents because of their immigration status.”

Or to put it in other words, the ordinance stipulates that no service currently provided by the city to citizens, natural born citizens and legal immigrants shall be denied to illegal immigrants.

The ordinance specifies that workers providing services to illegal immigrants “…shall encourage residents, regardless of immigration status, to make use of all City services provided by City departments for which residents are not denied eligibility by Federal law as it relates to their immigration status.

“Referrals to medical or social service agencies will be made in the same manner for all residents, without regard to immigration status.”

The exception should be noted: If federal law denies eligibility for Hartford city services to an illegal immigrant -- not very likely -- the ordinance may not trump the law. The ordinance itself does not specify those occasions in which city services provided to illegal immigrants would violate federal law.

The ordinance also specifies that nothing in the ordinance “shall be construed to prohibit any employee of the City of Hartford from cooperating with federal immigration authorities as required by law.”

The operative assumption is that federal law does not require the city service workers in Hartford to report illegal immigrants to federal authorities because, if that were the case, the exception clause would kick in – illegal immigration, however you turn the phrase on your tongue, is still illegal – and the city of Hartford would be thwarted in its attempt to provide to illegal immigrants the same services provided to citizens who have not violated federal law by their illegal entree into the country.

The ordinance blurs what had previously been a sharp line between illegal and legal residency.

On police matters, the ordinance is very specific.

It requires Hartford police officers not to make inquiries concerning “a person’s immigration status unless such an act is relevant to an investigation involving criminal activity...

“Hartford police shall not inquire about the immigration status of crime victims, witnesses, or others who call or approach the Hartford Police Department.

“No person shall be detained solely on the belief that he or she is not present legally in the United States, or that he or she has committed a civil immigration violation. There is no general obligation for a police officer to contact Immigration and Customs Enforcement regarding any person, unless that person is arrested on a criminal charge.

“Hartford police officers shall not make arrests based on administrative warrants for removal entered by ICE into the National Crime Information Center database, including administrative immigration warrants for persons with outstanding removal, deportation or exclusion orders. Enforcement of the civil provisions of United States immigration law is the responsibility of Federal immigration officials.”

The last paragraph quoted above is particularly jarring because it calls upon Hartford police not to co-operate with federal officials who previously had depended upon city police to detain and arrest illegal immigrants for whom the federal government has outstanding warrants. The city of Hartford in its ordinance airily dismisses any obligation police officers may have to co-operate with federal authorities in apprehending those who have violated federal law because “Enforcement of the civil provisions of United States immigration law is the responsibility of Federal immigration officials.”

One should view the ordinance as a beginning in the struggle of states to detach themselves from federal obligations to satisfy political constituencies. The state, through this ordinance, is in effect taunting the federal government and saying to it: We know that we are servicing illegal immigrants and refusing to co-operate with federal authorities in their apprehension and expulsion. Just try to stop us.

It will not be long before the Kingdom strikes back.

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