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Triple murder: Can we blame illegal immigration

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POSTED: September 20, 2007 5:04 a.m.
Newark, N.J., is not easily rattled. But it has been grieving since August, when four kids heading off to college and a promising future — a rarity in this town of hard streets and bad public schools — were forced to kneel against a wall in a schoolyard and were shot in the back of the head.
Dashon Harvey, 20; Iofemi Hightower, 20; and Terrance Aeriel, 18, died. Terrance’s sister, Natasha, 19, survived and provided information that helped police arrest six suspects.
At least two are illegal immigrants. One of the two, Jose Lachira Carranza, whom police call a leader of the murderous group, was out on $150,000 bail. He had been charged with sexually abusing a child, repeatedly, between 2003 and this year.
In a country where the justice system was more competently run, a guy accused of sexually terrifying a child over a period of four years would not have been freed on a mere $150,000 bail. A bail of $1 million would have kept him in prison and away from that schoolyard.
The incompetence continued when nobody notified Immigration and Customs Enforcement of Carranza’s immigration status. If someone had, it would have triggered a “detainer” order, under which ICE takes custody of illegal immigrants charged with a felony. So even if he had paid the scandalously low bail, he would have remained in prison.
Twice, the system had a chance to prevent the triple murder. Twice, the system failed.
Or three times. Because Carranza should not have been here in the first place. Under the reform plan that Congress was too cowardly to pass last spring, Carranza would have been kicked right back to his native Peru as an illegal immigrant who committed a felony.
It is useful, however, to draw distinctions between legitimate criticism of a failed immigration system and the drooling of fanatics.
Tom Tancredo, the Colorado congressman who is running a presidential campaign based on getting tough with illegal immigrants, blasted Newark officials for passing resolutions last year saying that illegal immigrants should not be denied basic services, and that local police were not to ask the immigration status of individuals — unless charged with a crime.
But it makes sense to allow Newark residents, regardless of immigration status, to attend the public schools, get immunization shots or have their garbage picked up without anyone asking for papers.
And as to cops turning into ICE agents — well, police in Newark find it hard enough to keep up with violent criminals and do not have time to go out and round up gardeners, maids and dishwashers.
Newark Mayor Corey Booker called Tancredo’s accusations “vulgar.” It is a fitting word, though not at odds with also knowing that if bail had not been so low, or if ICE had prevented Carranza from walking out after paying bail, four kids of the kind that are Newark’s precious resource would be starting classes at Delaware State College.

Hernandez is a syndicated columnist and writer-in-residence at New Jersey Institute of Technology. His latest book is “Cubans in America” (Kensington).

 

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