A project aimed at identifying and deporting illegal immigrants being held in the city jail drew praise Thursday from Rep. Christopher Cox (R-Newport Beach).
“It’s very important to know right up front who we’re dealing with,” said Cox. He said illegal immigrants often give phony names to police officers at the time of arrest then fail to appear in court if released on their own recognizance.
The result, Cox said, is those immigrants escape justice by becoming “lost to the bureaucratic system.” And when they give phony names to authorities, he said, arrest warrants are sometimes issued for innocent persons.
Cox’s comments came after he toured Anaheim’s jail, where two agents with the Immigration and Naturalization Service began questioning inmates last week about their immigration status. Working with laptop computers linked to federal databases, the INS agents will be at the jail for 60 days to determine how many of the inmates are in the country illegally.
A city-conducted survey found that 35% of the inmates are suspected of being illegally in the United States. Statistics from the INS study are still being compiled, but on one day, seven of 12 newly admitted inmates were identified as probable illegal immigrants.
Anaheim officials, meanwhile, are hopeful that the INS study will continue for six months.
Legislation authorizing the longer study was introduced by Cox last month and passed by the House of Representatives as an amendment to the federal immigration bill. The measure needs approval by the Senate and President Clinton before becoming law.
Among those accompanying Cox on the jail tour were Anaheim City Council members Bob Zemel and Tom Tait, who lobbied legislators in Washington last fall for the INS project.
Zemel said he would like to see federal agents permanently stationed at the jail to halt the “revolving door” scenario of illegal immigrants being released into the community only to be arrested later for additional crimes.