August 11, 2000

Immigration, The Border, and Politics

Close Border Patrol offices? Agents' union balks, says INS move will worsen illegal immigration

The Immigration and Naturalization Service has proposed closing two Border Patrol stations and one substation in a southwestern United States sector, a move that Border Patrol union leaders say will worsen illegal immigration in those areas and beyond.

INS sent a letter to the National Border Patrol Council July 18 detailing the closures. If approved by Congress, INS labor chief Robert S. Sherman said in his letter to the union that the San Marcos, Calif., substation would close, along with the Phoenix, Ariz., and Boulder City, Nev., stations.

Sherman said the closures would affect 13 Border Patrol agent positions as well as two secretary's positions. Affected personnel would be reassigned to other offices.

The union is opposing the closures on the grounds that closing the stations would hamper the Border Patrol's ability to apprehend illegal aliens in other than border areas.

"INS is attempting to place all of the Border Patrol's resources directly on the border," said the National Border Patrol Council in a statement. But, the union said, "as evidenced by the ... numbers, the Border Patrol is unable to stop all, or even most, illegal immigration at the border."

Sherman noted that the San Marcos substation would be closed "within 90 days of congressional approval."


Court: INS can't deport first-time drug offenders Legal immigrants with a single conviction find some protection in appeals court ruling

Immigration lawyers say hundreds of foreign-born Californians with one-time convictions for drug possession will be shielded from deportation by a new federal appeals court ruling.

Overturning an Immigration and Naturalization Service policy, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday, August 1, 2000, that legal immigrants could not be deported for a drug possession conviction that had been "expunged," or erased from the books, under state law.

Expungement is available in California for first-time offenders who have completed probation, usually a period of one to three years, without violating its conditions. Typical conditions include passing random drug tests, reporting regularly to a probation officer, attending drug rehabilitation and obeying all criminal laws. Those whose sentences include a state prison term of a year or more are ineligible.

The issue is crucial for many non-citizens because federal laws requiring deportation for criminal convictions have been greatly expanded in recent years.


INS will honor Elian raid team

Immigration agents who took part in Operation Reunion, the raid to remove Elian Gonzalez from the home of his Miami relatives, are converging in Georgia next week for a special awards ceremony.

Commissioner Doris Meissner has summoned them to an awards ceremony "for a job well done," said spokeswoman Maria Cardona of the Immigration and Naturalization Service in Washington.

"We are having an awards ceremony for the people who participated in Operation Reunion — and rightly so," Cardona said. "They were people who did an extraordinary job under extraordinary circumstances."

As many as 131 agents took part in the pre-dawn operation on April 22 to seize the 6-year-old from the Little Havana rental home of Lazaro, Angela and Marisleysis Gonzalez.

Only a few actually stepped inside the home. Most were in support roles in the mission to spirit Elian, the subject of an international child custody dispute, to a suburban Washington reunion with his father, Juan Miguel.

All of the agents being recognized will receive plaques, she said. A few will also get bonus vacation days, at the suggestion of Miami District director Bob Wallis.

Return to Frontpage