Councilman Bob Zemel said Thursday that he plans to fly to Washington this month to lobby for federal money to station an immigration agent at City Jail.
Zemel contends that an Immigration and Naturalization Service officer would help identify illegal immigrants, so they would not be freed pending a court appearance. Zemel and others argue that they often do not show up for court but remain free to commit crimes.
"I feel like we've had to swim upstream to get this understood," Zemel said. "We're not talking about kids in school or patients in clinics. We're talking about repeat felons in this country illegally."
Zemel's plan received only lukewarm support from a majority of the City Council, who said that the control of immigration is the responsibility of the federal government and that they did not want to spend city money on an INS agent. Hence, Zemel is seeking federal help.
Zemel had offered to pay his own way during a heated exchange with council members two weeks ago. But several business leaders are holding a fund-raiser today to collect money for the trip.
"I own and run my own business here in Anaheim, and we have enough obstacles to overcome without having to worry about crime in our streets," said said Linda Newby, a member of the Chamber of Commerce board of directors and organizer of the event. "We're calling upon individuals to chip in a little bit to try and get this program going."
The 3:15 p.m. event will be at the Sheraton Anaheim Hotel, following the Chamber of Commerce Leadership Conference.
Zemel's proposal was prompted by the shooting of Anaheim Police Officer Tim Garcia, who is recovering from gunshot wounds he suffered in a Sept. 8 shootout with an illegal immigrant who had been deported twice. The immigrant was killed.