By Jon Greiner
Utah State Senator
& Ogden City Chief of Police
I had an opportunity to do a little extra work this past week on several issues related to the immigration discussion.
1) Representative Stephen Sandstrom presented a first draft of his immigration bill to the interim Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee, 2) the Utah Police Chiefs had their first meeting on his bill, 3) the acting U.S. Attorney for the State of Utah held a press conference on the arrest of 158 gang illegal aliens state wide and 4) the Weber/Morgan Strike Force sent me their weekly report on drug arrests.
I thought readers may be interested in a few observations on each of these;
#1. Representative Sandstrom’s bill is a proposal to create a unique Utah law dealing with the enforcement portion of Immigration. It certainly won’t be the only Immigration bill this next session. He has made this a secondary offense for an officer doing a criminal investigation with a number of significant safeguards to address the critics who want to focus on race rather than a law. What many fail to recognize is that Arizona is not completely unique. Similar state laws on this issue already exist in Virginia, Rhode Island, Missouri, and California.
Some of these come about as a result of a U.S. Supreme Court decision. The U.S. Supreme Court indicated state and local officers may question criminal suspects and detainees about their immigration status. In Muehler v. Mena, 125 S.Ct. 1465 (3/22/2005), the Supreme Court found that questioning regarding the immigration of Mena (who was in handcuffs for several hours during a search of the premises where she resided) during her detention did not violate the Fourth Amendment. The Court indicated, “… (t)he officers did not need reasonable suspicion to ask Mena for her name, date and place of birth, or immigration status.” This case should not be interpreted as allowing the random questioning of persons regarding their immigration status. Mena was lawfully detained on other matters when the questioning occurred. She was not independently “seized” solely to allow the immigration questioning. This is an important issue captured in Sandstrom’s bill. It also worth noting the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 9-0 on this issue!
#2 The Utah Police Chiefs held a meeting in Southern Utah to review Representative Sandstrom’s bill. About twenty chiefs attended, myself included. They will be holding a second meeting in Sandy, Utah next month. The Utah Sheriff’s will probably have some questions at their EDI conference later in September. Representative Sandstrom has taken every law enforcement suggestion and made it a part of his bill.
#3. Public attention focused briefly on the 158 arrests by ICE during the past 4 months. Keep in mind, the thirty or so Utah based ICE agents did this on top of their regular work, spending only a few days each of the communities. (Surprisingly, there is an immigration attorney preparing a defense for one of those arrested.)
These round-ups have occurred about this same time every year for the past few years. The numbers just keep going up because there are more criminal gang members, many felony illegal re-entry, but at least one may have been a suspected gang member here on a first violation of 8 USC 1325. That federal regulation is comparable to a Class B misdemeanor in our Utah laws. That is that a judge may sentence for up to 6 months in jail for simply being in this country without going through an immigration process on a first offense. To that criminal sentence the judge may add a civil monetary fine.
#4 A number of citizens have asked me about whether the posting from a few weeks ago related to the number of illegal’s arrested in relation to the drug trafficking was a quirk. This week’s Strike Force report said they arrested 10 illegal aliens. Three of which were illegal re-entry offenders going back several years returning to the Wasatch front. One of which had been arrested four times and deported since 2001. The answer is that this is not a quirk; we are seeing a dramatic increase in arrests of illegal aliens for criminal activity in all of our communities across the state.