Perry presses Obama on immigration

August 9, 2010 4:50:50 PM PDT
Gov. Rick Perry met President Barack Obama as he walked off Air Force One on the Austin tarmac on Monday, but had to pay attention to see the "meeting" between them; it lasted just 26 seconds by our count. But the governor's point was clear - the feds aren't doing enough to secure the border, and what we've found certainly raises questions.

Samuel Vega was arrested in Houston in 1993.

Carlos Ortega was caught and convicted of evading arrest in 1994.

Andres Orrostieta was nabbed for DWI in Houston in 1995.

But it wasn't until Navor Vega was arrested last year driving drunk with a kid in the car that law enforcement finally saw the whole picture of this guy. With the help of a federal-country partnership that is now two years old, they realized he was really Manuel Borja-Vega, an illegal immigrant with eight aliases and 13 criminal convictions.

"He had numerous identities," said Kenneth Landgrebe with U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement.

Once ICE figured that out, they sentenced Borja-Vega to 11 years in a federal prison, and when he's done serving that sentence, he will be deported to Mexico for the fifth time.

"We're very aggressive in prosecuting those cases who are aggravated felons who re-enter the United States," Landgrebe said.

The feds deported more criminally convicted undocumented immigrants last year than ever before.

A large part of the credit goes to Harris County sheriff's deputies who check every inmate against federal immigration records as soon as they're booked.

"You really don't have the right to come to my country, say that you have a right to be here when you are illegally and then commit a crime," Harris County Sheriff's Office Lt. Michael Lindsay said. "I have a problem with that. I have a large problem with that."

Every month, deputies in the Houston area find at least 1,000 illegal immigrants in jail charged with other crimes. Some months, they find almost as many undocumented immigrants as the tough talking high-profile Phoenix Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

For every deported alien, there are thousands of others who are simply left alone. What the impressive statistics hide is the fact that ICE can handle only half of the criminally charged illegal immigrants brought into the Harris County Jail. The feds don't even ask the other half to leave.

"We cannot manage more than that based on the resources we have," Landgrebe said.

ICE says they do what they can, but what they can do may not be enough.

"The idea that the federal government is not processing these individuals and deporting them fast enough is a failure on its face," Perry said.

Perry briefly met president Obama on Monday to press the president for more protection on the Texas border; he asked for more national guardsmen along the Rio Grande and told Eyewitness News the situation in the jail is unacceptable.

"The federal government all too often wants to count prosecutions and the number of apprehensions," Perry said. "And we want to prevent them from ever happening in the first place."

Across the country, ICE has the ability to deport about 400,000 undocumented immigrants a year and only 22,000 from the Houston area, so they tell us they have to prioritize the worst of the worst and let minor criminals go.

The Harris County Sheriff's Office says of course they'd like more deported, but every one helps keep the county safer.


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