Guam AG Asked To Consider Suing Feds Over Criminal Deportations

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Vice speaker wants migrants who commit crimes returned home

By Louella Losinio

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Marianas Variety Guam, April 3, 2014) – The lack of "meaningful federal action" on deporting criminals from the freely associated states (FAS) presently detained on Guam has prompted Vice Speaker Benjamin Cruz to ask Attorney General Leonardo Rapadas to determine the viability of legal action to compel the feds to deport these criminals.

In a letter to the AG, the vice speaker also asked Rapadas to review Guam criminal laws, specifically involving crimes of violence, to determine what elements within local statutes may act as impediments to the deportation process.

In addition, Cruz sought assistance in determining the extent of the governor’s Organic Act authority to enforce all laws of the United States applicable to Guam.

"Put simply: Is the federal government required to follow federal law? Or, can the mere fact that we are a territory at the edge of American power permit the federal government to ignore the legal commitments it has made and leave us with the consequences of that act," the vice speaker said in his letter.

Cruz also asked Rapadas to provide an estimated cost assessment, noting he is aware additional resources may be required to meet the requests.

"Given the fact that we spend in excess of $100 million annually in unreimbursed Compact costs, I will seek the assistance of my colleagues in securing the support you need," Cruz said in his letter.

Cruz also sent an eight-page letter to Daniel H. Ragsdale, deputy director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement-U.S. Department of Homeland Security, expressing his concern regarding ICE’s enforcement and removal operations on Guam.

Cruz expressed his belief that the agency’s refusal to increase deportation actions against immigrants under the Compacts of Free Association, either because of "alleged local statutory infirmities or a high-level determination that the pursuit of violative habitual resident deportations is a waste of litigation resources," is not supported by the facts.

He said the Compacts granted FAS citizens "unrestricted immigration to the United States and its territories, provided that every such citizen maintained gainful employment or pursued an education while on U.S. soil."

"These (Compacts) were passed under the premise that unrestricted FAS immigration to Guam and other U.S. jurisdictions would be feasible through adherence to certain economic and legal commitments guaranteed by federal law and the Code of Federal Regulations. Periodic amendments to the economic provisions within the acts are meant to cover costs incurred with the increased demand that (Compact) immigration places on affected jurisdictions’ educational and social services," the vice speaker said.

Cruz also noted that federal law requires FAS migrants to demonstrate self-support pursuant to 8 C.F.R. § 214.7, and subjects "felonious FAS migrants to deportation proceedings under the Immigration and Naturalization Act (INA), 8 U.S.C. § 1227."

"Now, after nearly 28 years of life in Guam under the COFA (Compacts of Free Association), I am forced to question the sincerity of the federal government and its officials regarding these commitments," he said.

Cruz cited the latest COFA impact report for Guam, which revealed that the $128 million total cost of government services to FAS citizens in 2013 reflects a $3 million increase from 2012.

"To be clear, while I believe that every person – regardless of heritage, race or political status who seeks an education on Guam or wishes to contribute to our economy – is vital to the future of our island, those who commit crimes against our community are no longer deserving of the special opportunity that brought them here," he said.

Cruz also cited reports that FAS citizens represent more than a quarter of the inmate and detainee population on island, and that "only half of the $6.5 million in costs in housing these individuals was covered by federal grants and aid."

After participating in a conference call last month, Cruz expressed concern over federal immigration officials’ seemingly lackadaisical attitude in helping Guam deport FAS criminals.

During the conference call, Homeland Security officials said they were unaware of any action taken to enforce the deportation of citizens under the Compacts of Free Association.

Despite the vice speaker's concerns regarding the rising public safety costs on Guam, federal officials said ICE may not enforce the deportation provisions as the agency's legal officers decided this would be a "waste of litigation resources."

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