Cape Cod Elected Officials Stand Up To Illegal-Immigration Advocates

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Congratulations to the Barnstable County Assembly of Delegates, a little-known regional government entity on Cape Cod that could easily have bowed to the pressure of illegalistas this week to snub the county sheriff’s cooperation with federal immigration authorities.

Instead, five of the assembly’s 15 delegates, representing about 57 percent of the Cape’s population, voted no on Wednesday on a resolution expressing opposition to the sheriff’s agreement with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. (Under the assembly’s proportional-voting system, that means the anti-immigration-enforcement resolution failed.)

Some voted no to support Sheriff James Cummings. Some did so on procedural grounds. But all did the right thing.

The resolution would have accomplished nothing legally, since the sheriff’s department is a function of state government, not county government. The Assembly of Delegates, which acts as a sort of legislature for county government, has no authority over the sheriff.

But rest assured that if the vote had gone the other way, it would have been played up big as a grassroots thumb in the eye of the sheriff and President Donald Trump. We would have been hearing about how the resolution was yet another sign that the Republicans are going to take a shellacking nationally in November 2018. It also would have been used by supporters of a bill in the state Legislature that would just about make Massachusetts a sanctuary state by stripping local, regional, and state law enforcement departments of the ability to cooperate closely with federal immigration officials.

Instead, since the resolution lost:  Nothing to see here, folks, move along.

The most striking aspect of Sheriff Cummings’s agreement with the feds is how mild it is. Here’s how it works:  After getting training from ICE, sheriff’s deputies at the Barnstable County Jail and House of Correction will be able run fingerprints in ICE databases to determine if inmates coming into the jail are in the country illegally. If they are, the deputies will be able to notify federal immigration authorities, who can then determine if they want the inmate held for possible deportation.

Chances are, if the inmate did something bad, or is a member of a gang, or is suspected of having ties to terrorism, or has been deported before, the answer will be yes.

If this sounds sinister to you, then you believe in open borders even for foreign criminals.

During the assembly hearing Wednesday afternoon, opponents of the program made various arguments, summed up in the resolution. Here are some of them:


Racial Profiling

If you’re here illegally, it really doesn’t matter what race you are. The “profiling” part is also irrelevant. Racial profiling can make for an interesting argument when we’re talking about American citizens.

But even more to the point:  There’s no racial profiling when it comes to getting screened for immigration status at the county jail. You come to the jail as an inmate, you get screened. The percentage of inmates getting screened should be roughly 100 percent. No racial profiling there.


Trust Between Illegal Immigrants and the Police

The resolution says Cummings’s program would harm relations between immigrants on the Cape and local police departments, which it says would be “adversely affected by the perception that interactions with police could result in deportation.”

Since no sheriff’s deputies will be looking for illegals outside of the jail, this argument doesn’t go anywhere. But more interesting still:  Is there any kind of point to it all?

Three towns on Cape Cod – Barnstable, Falmouth, and Yarmouth – make up about 47 percent of the population of Barnstable County. Sheriff Cummings told the Assembly of Delegates on Wednesday that he recently asked the police chiefs of each of those towns if they have ever seen a case where a suspect couldn’t be prosecuted because an illegal immigrant was afraid to talk to the police. He said he asked the Cape and Islands District Attorney’s office the same question.

The answer:



Effect on Summertime Foreign Workers

Cape Cod seasonal businesses depend heavily on foreigners with temporary visas to work in restaurants, bars, hotels, motels, and other places during the summer, when the Cape’s population triples.

The resolution claims that the sheriff’s agreement with ICE could have a “potentially devastating effect on local business.”

But why would foreigners coming to the Cape legally to work be concerned about being deported if they commit a crime? The vast majority come to the Cape not to commit crime but to work and make money. And if that’s the case, since they’re here legally, why would they fear being deported?

In Cummings’s words Wednesday:  “That doesn’t make sense.”

If it’s illegal immigrants arrested for crimes that the advocates are worried about … well, that’s what deportation is for.



The resolution complains about what it calls “an opaque and unaccountable process.”

“The program will operate behind a veil of secrecy,” said the resolution’s sponsor, delegate Brian O’Malley of Provincetown, during the hearing Wednesday.

On this matter we agree. The whole immigration system is far too secretive.

It’s not the sheriff’s fault. Longstanding federal practice shrouds immigration hearings, documents, and decisions in secrecy. One day an illegal immigrant is living among us. The next day the illegal immigrant is plucked out of society and thrown into a non-public setting where the process and even the outcome are hidden by the government.

A little-noticed provision in President Trump’s executive order on sanctuary cities issued January 25, 2017 sought to take a step in opening up the process by calling for illegal aliens to be removed from the protections of the federal Privacy Act. Congress ought to finish the job the president started and make the whole process public.

Americans ought to know how their immigration system works, what decisions federal officials make about immigrants, and why they make them.

With allowances for necessary precautions about national security and the safety of federal agents, the federal government should make immigration hearings, documents, and decisions public and accessible to all.

If we are ever to settle on an immigration system that satisfies the vast majority of American citizens – and we haven’t done that yet – we at least have to know what that system is.