(CNSNews.com) - American citizens who are victimized or injured as a result of crimes committed by illegal aliens should be able to seek restitution from those immigrants' home countries, according to Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas).
There is, he said, a continued "lack of interior enforcement" against criminal aliens, which jeopardizes American citizens along the southwestern border and throughout the nation.
Criminal aliens are defined by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) as illegal immigrants who commit crimes over and above their immigration violations.
Poe's proposal comes at a time when law enforcement officials observe what they say is a strong connection between sophisticated criminal enterprises and the influx of illegal immigrants into the U.S.
In an interview with Cybercast News Service, he said that criminal aliens' home countries frequently block the repatriation of their own citizens, exacerbating the situation.
A recent report by the House Homeland Security Committee's subcommittee on management, investigations and oversight examined links between Mexican drug cartels, human trafficking operations and U.S.-based gangs made up predominantly of foreign nationals.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) estimates there are roughly 30,000 such gangs, comprising 800,000 members, active in 2,500 communities across the U.S.
One of the most notorious criminal enterprises, the Mara Salvatrucha or MS-13 gang, has been identified in congressional testimony as having an expanded reach throughout the U.S.
Almost 90 percent of its members are illegals, according to DHS officials. Although originally active in Los Angeles, about 1,500 MS-13 gang members are active in parts of Northern Virginia and Washington, D.C., according to current FBI estimates.
Even so, officials with the Immigration and Customs and Enforcement Agency (ICE) - a division of DHS - told Cybercast News Service that federal agents have stepped up their efforts against individual criminal aliens and those who are also active with gangs.
The former practice of "catch and release" has been replaced with a policy of "catch and return," ICE public affairs officer Richard Rocha said in an interview.
The installation of a new 500-bed detention facility in Williamson County, Texas, highlights the progress being made in this area, he added. Rocha also said ICE has tripled the number of its "fugitive operations teams" from 18 to 50. The teams' priority is to find and arrest aliens who fail to comply with court orders to leave the U.S.
'Uncooperative foreign governments'
Poe remains concerned, however. He said there was evidence in his Texas district and elsewhere in the country that a "catch and release" policy remains in effect.
Moreover, the lack of cooperation from foreign governments has put U.S. immigration officials in an almost untenable position, he said.
A recent audit report from the DHS Office of Inspector General Report reviews ICE's detention and removal office. It cites the "practice of some countries to block or inhibit the repatriation of its citizens" as a key impediment to the deportation process. They do this most frequently by refusing to provide the documents necessary for repatriation.
"Right now, there are no consequences for these countries," Poe told Cybercast News Service. "But we are going to re-file legislation very soon that gives a cause of action for people in the U.S., if they are injured or victimized by an illegal alien, to take action against the government of that country and seek reparations."
Poe earlier sponsored an amendment to legislation that would limit financial assistance to nations that do not accept individuals who have been issued final removal orders by U.S. immigration authorities.
But his pending "victims' rights bill" ups the ante. The legislation would provide for such cases to be heard in federal court. In the event foreign countries refuse to pay victims of crimes committed by their nationals who are in the U.S. illegally, the victims will have the option of pursuing the matter further through the State Department.
"The crime victim could then go to a State Department administrative hearing and say he has a judgment against this country that refuses to pay," Poe explained. "The foreign aid to that country could then be reduced by the amount that goes to the victim."
Reaction on the Hill to the proposal has been "mixed" thus far, the Texas congressman said.
Kathleen Walker, incoming president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), argues that Poe's proposal is completely unworkable from the perspective of international law.
"To me, it's a red herring," she said. "The country in question has to have a court that's going to recognize this kind of judgment, and the damages may not be enforceable under the public policy of the foreign country."
Moreover, Walker argued, the measure could be turned against the U.S. If an American citizen committed a transgression overseas, the relevant foreign government could seek payment from the U.S., she said.
Under section 243 of the Immigration and Nationality Act, the State Department may "discontinue granting immigrant visas or nonimmigrant visas, or both, to citizens, subjects, nationals and residents of a country."
Walker said the provision was rarely exercised, because some of the countries most uncooperative on repatriation are also important trading partners.
Some of the countries identified by DHS as "blocking or inhibiting" repatriation are China, India, Jamaica, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Cuba, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Iran.
See Earlier Story:
Home Countries of US Illegals Often Refuse Repatriation (August 10, 2006)
digg_skin = 'compact'
Make media inquiries or request an interview about this article.
Subscribe to the free CNSNews.com daily E-Brief.
E-mail a comment or news tip to Kevin Mooney
Send a Letter to the Editor about this article.