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Immigration policies under fire

Father arrested after disrupting Senate hearing
Don Rosenberg, father of Drew Rosenberg, who was killed by an immigrant in the country illegally, is taken away Tuesday after disrupting a Senate Judiciary Committee in Washington. He said there are thousands of cases where local authorities refused federal requests to hold immigrants for deportation.

WASHINGTON – Emotional testimony between advocates serving immigrant communities and victims of crimes committed by immigrants in the country illegally escalated with an arrest Tuesday during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.

The committee met to provide oversight of the Obama administration’s enforcement of immigration laws, including how it has played out across local law-enforcement agencies. Committee chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, supports legislation to withhold funding for communities that do not cooperate with federal officials in turning over undocumented immigrants.

Followed by a trail of cameras and microphones, police handcuffed and escorted Don Rosenberg out of the hearing room after his outburst at the Rev. Gabriel Salguero. In September 2010, Roberto Galo, an immigrant driver killed Rosenberg’s 25-year-old son in San Francisco – a so-called “sanctuary city” – while going the wrong way on a one-way street without a license.

The Rev. Salguero, with Lambs Church in New York City, which provides support to undocumented immigrants, argued against removing federal funding from communities that don’t comply with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Rosenberg said government data shows there were 8,811 cases between January and September 2014 across the country where local law enforcement ignored federal requests for undocumented offenders to be detained citing “sanctuary jurisdiction.”

“Thousands, thousands,” Rosenberg repeatedly shouted in response to Salguero’s testimony that entire communities should not be penalized because of the actions of “a few.”

Sen. Diane Feinstein, D-Calif., joined Republican lawmakers such as Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., in grilling administration officials before the panel on their release of undocumented offenders, including murderers and rapists back into society.

“We don’t release people willy-nilly,” said Sarah Saldana, assistant secretary of ICE, in her defense. “We release them according to the statutes.”

Saldana pointed to the need for comprehensive immigration reform in order to address the problem.

“Our concern is that someone’s family is going to get torn apart for a minor offense,” said Danny Quinlan, executive director of Compañeros, a Durango immigrant services organization, who was reached by telephone.

Quinlan says immigrants can be held with bonds that can be anywhere between $5,000 and $50,000 for periods that can last up to four years after local law enforcement alerts ICE officials about something that can be as minor as driving with a broken tail light.

But Dan Bender, spokesman with the La Plata County Sheriff’s Office, said in a telephone interview, with the exception of domestic-violence cases, its policy is to report to ICE only if undocumented offenders are taken into custody for committing a crime classified as a misdemeanor or felony. A broken tail light, he said, would just result in a warning or a ticket. For something such as driving under the influence of alcohol, the Sheriff’s Office would take the offender into custody and alert immigration, he said.

mbaksh@durangoherald.com. Mariam Baksh is a student at American University in Washington, D.C., and an intern for The Durango Herald.

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