Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Riddle me this...

Apparently it's not enough for Tomball state representative Debbie Riddle to file a bill turning police officers into immigration officials -- she had to be the first in line. Ms. Riddle spent two nights camping in the hallway just outside the house chamber so she could be the first to file bills for the upcoming legislative session.

Ms. Riddle's immigration bill would create a new Class B misdemeanor -- criminal trespass by illegal alien. The new bill would allow officers to check the immigration status of any individual the officer believes is committing any criminal offense. If illegal immigration is this great threat to our way of life, why is the proposed crime just one step above a traffic ticket?

Now that sounds all well and good. If you're going to live in another country, you best obey the law, that kind of thing. But here's where it gets messy. Let's just suppose that the police officer was wrong about his suspicion that the person was committing a crime. That case goes out the window - but should HB17 pass, that same person would also be charged with criminal trespass -- even though he did nothing that should have gotten him arrested in the first place.

Here's an example. J.Z. is arrested on suspicion of driving while intoxicated. During the course of the investigation, the officer finds out J.Z. is not in the country legally so he arrests him for both DWI and criminal trespass. As it turns out there were problems with the traffic stop and the DWI case is dismissed. J.Z. should be able to go about his business -- but no. He still has a criminal trespass charge hanging over his head; a charge that never should have been filed because J.Z. shouldn't have been arrested in the first place.

There's another issue as well, proving up, in a criminal court, that a person is here illegally. Who is the state going to put on the stand to prove up the accused's status? Who's going to be called to testify as to the reliability and accuracy of the government's records?

Then there's HB18 which would make prohibit cities, counties or other political subdivisions from not enforcing federal immigration laws. In other words, a city or county would not be eligible for state money if it adopted any policy that prohibited, or discouraged, officers from checking a suspect's immigration status. The proposed legislation takes dead aim at Houston which has adopted policies leading some critics to label the city as a "Sanctuary City" for illegal immigrants.

Legislation in Arizona that turned the police into immigration officers currently is tied up in federal court.

We're taught in law school that bad facts make bad law. Here's the corollary, publicity-seeking politicians make bad law, too.

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