The illegal immigrants being held in area jails are increasingly charged with violent crimes as law enforcement agencies focus on taking murderers, rapists and gang members off the streets, according to a review by the Washington Examiner.
Nearly half of the criminal charges filed against the 274 inmates who were being held during the last week of February on Immigration and Customs Enforcement warrants in Fairfax, Alexandria and D.C. jails related to violence, drugs and gang participation.
Illegal immigrants have been charged in a number of high-profile crimes in the region in recent months.
» Earlier this month, six suspected illegal immigrants were accused of gang raping a 30-year-old woman they abducted from an Alexandria nightclub.
» In late February, two suspected illegal immigrants brought an 11-year-old girl to a Silver Spring apartment where they both raped her, Montgomery County police said.
» On Christmas Day, authorities say, a suspected illegal immigrant stabbed his 25-year-old roommate to death during a heated early-morning argument in Rockville.
But some immigration advocates are concerned that efforts to catch violent criminals could end up becoming a dragnet for all illegal immigrants in the area.
Kerwin [Donald Kerwin, vice president of programs at the Migration Policy Institute] said the result of the increased attention on illegal immigrants, violent and nonviolent, will be that a system already “stretched to the breaking point” will fall into ruin.
Others say focusing strictly on rounding up violent criminals doesn’t go far enough.
Jon Feere, a legal policy analyst at the Center for Immigration Studies, said although applying resources to the most serious crimes is important, letting smaller offenses go unpunished has its dangers.
Percentage of charges filed against suspected illegal immigrants:
Violent crimes: 31
Property crimes: 15
Driving while intoxicated: 6
Gang participation: 3
Drunk in public: 4
Child abuse: 2
Among the remaining 27 percent are gun violations, driving without a license, reckless driving and failing to appear in court for misdemeanors.