E. Dennis Muchnicki is a lawyer who represents people facing deportation, and he said Ohio citizens complain even to him that when they alert authorities about illegal immigrants, nothing happens. (Stephanie Czekalinski, Columbus Dispatch, February 3 2008)
Lax law enforcement is a major complaint of people who think illegal immigration is out of control. But authorities, especially local Ohio police departments, are limited in what they can do, although some politicians are pushing to give them more authority. Generally, local and state police agencies cannot enforce federal immigration laws, mainly because lacking proper documentation is a civil infraction, not a criminal act.
Currently, Ohio law enforcement agencies can enter into agreements with the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency. However, they are limited to the enforcement of criminal provisions of immigration law. In June, 2007, the Ohio Attorney General issued an opinion, finding that a county sheriff may arrest and detain an alien for a civil provision of immigration law. Also, the Attorney General issued another opinion which stated that current Ohio law only permits county sheriffs to enter into agreements with federal officials to enforce criminal provisions, but not civil violations of immigration law.
According to George Munoz of Poder 360 online magazine, "Calling people 'illegals' is wrong. Violation of immigration laws is not an automatic crime. Therefore, labeling 12 million immigrants in this country as 'criminals' or 'illegals' is not only inaccurate, it may be libelous." (2008)
Munoz points out that a civil infraction is not a crime or a felony. Under the law, the “unauthorized presence” of foreigners in our country because of lack of a valid visa or documents is subject to a due process hearing and deportation if the infraction is not cleared up. This is a civil—not a criminal—proceeding.
Munoz further explains, "This civil law violation is upgraded to a crime if a person who was deported reenters our country without the proper documentation. But the fact is that most of the 12 million immigrants whose presence is 'unauthorized' are not deemed to be guilty of a crime, which means they are not, in fact, 'illegals.'"
So, what do local authorities do with civil violations? According to the Dispatch, Columbus police pass tips for investigation about illegal aliens on to Immigration and Customs Enforcement. In most of Ohio, officers do not contact ICE about minor violations, such as a driver being unable to provide identification for fear of swamping immigration agents.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security can, under the Criminal Alien Program, deputize state and local officers to enforce immigration laws, and Butler County is leading the way.
Butler County sheriff's office is foremost in Ohio to finish training for enforcing the immigration laws. Groups advocating immigrants' rights and civil rights criticized Butler County Sheriff Richard K. Jones in 2007 after deputies detained 18 undocumented immigrants, only to release them the same day. Jones has become adamant about stopping the illegal immigration problem in Butler County.
Jones rightly complains that many of these illegal aliens are housed in his jail for crimes they have committed in addition to breaking immigration laws. The thousands of dollars it costs to house these illegals must be paid by every taxpayer in Butler County.To prove his convictions, Jones mailed a bill to the Federal Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for prisoners believed to be "Undocumented Aliens" housed in the Butler County Jail in 2005. The bill, calculated through the end of October, was for a total of $71,610.00 covering the fifteen (15) identified individuals who had been currently in jail, some of whom had been in jail since June, 2005. It represented a total of 1,023 billable days at $70.00/day. Future bills of the same nature were mailed out at the end of each subsequent month, beginning November, 2005.
Ohio State Sen. Gary Cates, R-West Chester, has proposed a bill that would give Ohio sheriffs the authority to enforce immigration laws. Last year, 244 immigration bills became law in 46 states. Such laws have been challenged as unconstitutional because they infringe on the federal government's power to enforce immigration laws.
Here is the context of the legislation and its current status according to one report (Ohio Commission on Hispanic/Latino Affairs, March 13 2009)
Senate Bill 35
"Senate Bill 35 would mandate that the Ohio Attorney General pursue a memorandum of agreement with Immigrations and Customs Enforcement to deputize Ohio law enforcement officers as immigration enforcement officers. This would provide for the enforcement of both criminal and civil violations of immigration law."
The bill is currently in the Senate State and Local Government and Veterans' Affairs Committee, and has received two hearings (1st- sponsor, 2nd- all parties). At this point SB 35 may be scheduled for a committee vote at any time.
Senate Bill 260
"Senate Bill 260 authorizes a county sheriff, at the direction of the county board of commissioners and with permission from Immigration and Customs Enforcement, to investigate civil violations of immigration law, and take persons charged with civil violations of immigration law into custody. Currently, law enforcement agents may investigate only criminal violations of immigration law, and take into custody persons charged with criminal violations of immigration law."
As of now this bill has not yet received any hearings.A website does exist for reporting employers who use illegal aliens. The purpose of this website is to expose "alleged" employers of illegal aliens. In this effort we need your help states website WeHireAliens.com. (FIRE Coalition) Here are some of the employers across Ohio who have been reported. I stress that this information is alleged and merely reported by someone. Verification of its accuracy is dependent on WeHireAliens.com reports. 1. Golden Corral -- Akron, Cincinnati, and Hamilton 2. Big Lots Discount Retail -- Columbus 3. Kellermeyer Building Services,LLC -- Maumee 4. Silverline Windows -- Marion 5. Koch Foods -- Port Union 6. Hampton Inn -- Bowling Green 7. Mendozas -- Cincinnati 8. Bob Evans Farms, Inc. -- Columbus 9. Consolidated Biscuit Company -- McComb 10. Cintas Corporation -- Mason Report to ICE (866) 347-2423 option 1 Report to EEOC (800) 669-4000 Report to Federal Employment Immigration Case Workers (202) 693-0051