Plan to Put INS Agent at City Jail Is Imperiled

The city's plans to station an Immigration and Naturalization Service agent at the Anaheim jail are on hold, due in part to the lingering impasse in federal budget negotiations.

A consequence of the budget fight, City Council members Bob Zemel and Tom Tait told their colleagues this week, is that congressional legislation paving the way for Anaheim's proposed program with the INS has been put in limbo.

"The bill is sitting there" in the House, Tait said, "and nothing will happen, I imagine, until the budget negotiations work their way through."

If the legislation receives House approval, it still will have to make its way through the Senate and be signed by President Clinton before becoming law.

"Hopefully, the INS could just do it directly," Tait said on Wednesday, pointing out that the city is willing to bear the $37,000 cost of the trial program if necessary. "We're only talking one [agent], part time, for six months," he said.

Under the city's proposal, an INS agent stationed at the jail would have access to federal computer records to help determine the immigration status and criminal history of arrestees.

"The judge has to know who he's dealing with," said Zemel, who is concerned that illegal immigrants facing court appearances pose a significant flight risk.

A recently completed 60-day study at the Anaheim jail showed that about 37% of the arrestees during that period were suspected of being illegal immigrants.

Among the suspects was a man who had been arrested 22 times before his deportation in 1990. The man had used 57 aliases, the study found, and gave authorities 23 different birth dates.

Tait, who said he was surprised by the survey results, said Anaheim "has a duty to vigorously pursue a solution" to its local crime problem.

"It's something we need the INS for," Tait said, "we can't do it ourselves. We don't want to get into the immigration business. We don't have the expertise."

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