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Jocelyn Fong of Media Matters misleads about immigration (Harold Hurtt, ICE)

Former Houston police chief Harold Hurtt was recently named to a leadership position at ICE; see the backstory here. He took heat from Fox News and others because, as explained at the link, under his leadership Houston was one of the sanctuary cities.

Sure as night follows day, Media Matters for America is trying to mislead people about what Hurtt actually supports, with their Jocelyn Fong offering 'Fox absurdly claims ICE official doesn't "believe in immigration enforcement"' (mediamatters.org/research/201006250029) in which she plays word games about the term "sanctuary city" [1]. Her claim that at the time of his leadership Houston wasn't a sanctuary city is based on thinking that their readers are naive enough to believe their definition, which is based on the definition provided by Steve Doocy (!) and by Bob Rutt, head of ICE in Houston, who in 2006 said: "Houston is not a sanctuary city, by the definition... They do cooperate with us."

Just when I thought it had been cleared up in 2006, MMFA wants to join with Bill White to pretend that Houston isn't a sanctuary city. Yet, in 2008, the former head of ICE Julie Myers - a George W Bush crony - ... released a report that showed Houston has fallen short in a nationwide crackdown on violent, predominantly Latino street gangs that draw strength from undocumented immigrants... Houston, the nation's fourth-largest city, accounted for just 71 of the 1,759 arrests in the roundup in 53 cities over the past four months... Myers said the reluctance of police departments in cities such as Houston and Phoenix to fully cooperate had forced federal immigration authorities to negotiate narrow, targeted enforcement efforts.

And, September 11 Commission member John Lehman said in 2004: "It is ridiculous that five cities in the United States do not allow local police to cooperate with the federal immigration service... [t]he terrorists know [which cities have such policies]", specifically naming Houston and Los Angeles.

And, if you aren't yet convinced that Jocelyn Fong isn't credible, there's this from July 2005 (previously excerpted here):

You're not being targeted -- that's the message to immigrants from the Houston Police Department. Chief Hurtt is reiterating that their job is to protect and serve, not to find out about your legal status.

A city council member recently suggested Houston police officers be given the authority to ask people about their legal status. Now the police chief is responding.

There are several reasons why the police chief refuses to change the way the department deals with immigration. They range from staffing to jurisdiction. But most importantly, it is policy that's worked for more than 25 years.

...HPD Captain Bruce Williams explained, "If the citizen can come to us and know that we're going to take the information that they give us without looking into their status as an immigrant, then they're more free to come to us and talk about crime issues."

That's why for nearly the past 30 years HPD policy has advised officers not to ask citizens about their immigration status. But City Councilman Mark Ellis wants the policy changed.

"I am in favor of supporting what the Bush administration has asked local government entities to do, and that is to assist in enforcing the criminal illegal immigration laws," Ellis said.

Chief Hurtt said, "That is our policy. At this time we do not have any intention of changing it."

Regardless of a suspect's immigration status, police will continue to enforce the laws. If they think one's being broken, and in situations such as human smuggling or trafficking, they'll continue to call in federal agents. For Councilman Ellis, those steps don't go far enough.

He said, "That's kind of like they're selectively deciding which laws they're going to enforce. I think that's wrong."

But officers consider the policy a invaluable crime fighting tool. Chief Hurtt also says the department lacks the man power to begin enforcing the federal law.

[1] The title of the MMFA piece is explained in this paragraph:

Fox & Friends' Gretchen Carlson stated that Hurtt "is a sanctuary city supporter. And some people are raising the question, how can you head up the office of immigration enforcement if you don't believe in immigration enforcement?"

Obviously, she should have been more precise with her wording. On that point, MMFA is correct. However, on the point discussed above, Jocelyn Fong is misleading her readers: Houston indeed is and was a sanctuary city.

Sun, 06/27/2010 - 08:38 · Importance: 4