Frelinghuysen Takes Aim at Deportations of Serious Crime Suspects
Reacting to what he calls "an outrageous miscarriage of justice," Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen yesterday introduced two measures designed to address legal circumstances that led to the deportation of an illegal alien charged with sexually assaulting a Morris County teenager.
"The legal interaction between state criminal law and the federal immigration process is multi-layered, complex and, sometimes, frustrating," said Frelinghuysen. "However, what is crystal clear is that the federal government must take steps to prevent another American crime victim from being victimized again, this time by our own bureaucracy!"
In April 2008, a foreign national in the United States illegally was arrested and charged with aggravated sexual assault following an attack on a 12-year girl. He was remanded to the Morris County, New Jersey jail where he remained until August when he was able to secure his release from Morris County custody by posting bail. Aware that the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) had a "detainer" on the suspect, the Morris County Sheriff's Department transferred custody of the suspect to ICE.
In September of 2008, the suspect was transferred to an ICE detention center in Louisiana where he appeared before an immigration judge and was ordered deported. Appropriate officials in New Jersey were never informed that this suspect was about to be or was subsequently deported.
Frelinghuysen's legislation would allow a state's chief executive, or another appropriate official to request that the DHS stay the removal of an alien charged with an aggravated felony. "While recognizing the DHS must maintain flexibility and discretion to accomplish its alien removal mission, this bill will provide an important new tool to state and local officials as they work to bring to trial illegal immigrants charged with a serious crime," said Frelinghuysen.
"This solution is by no means perfect but it attempts to strike a balance between our national desire to deport illegal aliens as quickly as possible and the ability of victims of serious crimes to have their rights protected. Simply put, the federal government needs to think twice before handing the alien suspect in an aggravated felony a get out of jail free' card. These matters are too important to be put on auto-pilot!"
Frelinghuysen also introduced a "Sense of Congress" resolution which directs DHS and its Bureau of Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) to develop an effective and efficient system of communication that allows state and local law enforcement and prosecutors to know, in a timely manner, when suspects charged in their jurisdictions with aggravated felonies are in the final stages of the deportation process.
"There is another important component to this tragic incident - a state component. Bail was set for this suspect at level that, in hindsight, appears incredibly low. In this regard, I would urge my former colleagues in the State Legislature to consider changes to the Constitution or the State Criminal code that requires a judge to understand a suspect's immigration status before bail is set in cases involving serious and violent felonies. Adequate bail levels will go a long way toward preventing a recurrence of this outrageous situation."