Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Morresi critical of procedures (Standard-Speaker)

Morresi critical of procedures

)Published: October 26, 2011

A routine traffic stop involving an admitted illegal immigrant has the police chief of a small Carbon County community once again criticizing Immigration and Customs Enforcement - and now the Hazleton Area School District, too.

Beaver Meadows police Chief Mike Morresi said he conducted the traffic stop on Arturo Garcia-Garcia, 34, on Saturday at 2:40 p.m. for traveling at 46 mph in a 35-mph zone on Broad Street. It was during that traffic stop that Garcia-Garcia handed him a fictitious Pennsylvania identification card that listed his address as 10 E. Broad St., Hazleton, according to an investigation report furnished to the Standard-Speaker.

The report states that Garcia-Garcia told Morresi he was in the country illegally for the past 15 years and lived with his girlfriend, with whom he has two children, ages 9 and 11, the report states. Garcia-Garcia said he used the same card to enroll his children in the Hazleton Area School District three years prior, Morresi said.

Garcia-Garcia was taken into custody and the false ID was confiscated. The vehicle and children were released to acquaintances of Garcia-Garcia and he was taken to the Pennsylvania State Police Hazleton barracks for a records check, the report states. Morresi said that check showed he had a prior arrest and driving under the influence conviction in Florida under a fictitious name.

Morresi said during an interview Tuesday that when he checked Garcia-Garcia's record again, it showed the man was cited on four separate occasions by different police departments for driving without a license, the first one in 1993 and the last in 2007. Each time, Morresi said, Garcia-Garcia was issued a citation and released.

Additionally, Morresi wrote another police agency charged Garcia-Garcia with a vehicle code violation recently. That violation caused him to be brought before an immigration judge, who granted him a voluntary deportation for Nov. 5, Morresi wrote.

Morresi said he called ICE with the information, noting he met the requirements for providing him with a detainer for Garcia-Garcia. Immigration told Morresi to release him, refusing to take him into their custody or provide police with a detainer, according to Morresi's report. ICE officials continued, saying the only way they were going to take Garcia-Garcia into custody was if police filed charges. Morresi said he told ICE he would be filing charges, which "forced" ICE to provide a detainer.

Garcia-Garcia was arraigned on charges of false identification to law enforcement, driving without a proper license and speeding before District Judge Joseph Homanko, who set bail at $5,000 straight and set a preliminary hearing for today at 11 a.m.; however, ICE has 48 hours to obtain custody of him from prison, Morresi said.

A Carbon County prison spokesperson said Tuesday that Garcia-Garcia is still listed as an inmate at the facility and cannot be picked up by ICE until he answers to the charges placed against him by Beaver Meadows police.

At the end of the incident investigation report, Morresi wrote he was forwarding the report to explain the "ongoing dilemma" law enforcement has with ICE.

"On previous occasions I was informed by ICE that agents would immediately pick up any illegal immigrant that had a criminal history, was in the country illegally for re-entry or had gang affiliations. As previously stated, Garcia-Garcia did have a criminal history in addition to being in the country illegally for the second time. However, when I presented these facts to ICE they told me to release him or charge him."

A media spokesperson for ICE was made aware of the allegations and as of Tuesday afternoon was looking into the issue. A media spokesperson from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation also was investigating.

Morresi was also critical of the Hazleton Area School District, noting Garcia-Garcia, who also told police he now lives on Allen Street in West Hazleton, said he used the false ID to enroll his children at the Hazleton Area School District and they did not have a problem accepting it. Morresi said the Hazleton Area School District website clearly states three proofs of residency are needed to enroll students.

"In addition to the government problem we have with deporting illegal immigrants, I hope you are in agreement with me that it is bewildering that our locals schools are allowing children of persons with no legal United States proof of residency to attend the schools," he wrote.

After reviewing Morresi's complaint Tuesday, acting District Superintendent Francis X. Antonelli said Garcia-Garcia claimed to have enrolled his children in Hazleton Area schools three years ago, which was more than a year before the district adopted its current student enrollment policy that includes strict proof-of-residency requirements.

"Our registration policy wasn't adopted until the spring of 2010, so these kids were registered before the policy went into effect," Antonelli said.

Even though Garcia-Garcia's immigration status has been brought to his attention, Antonelli said the district is prohibited from taking any immigration-related action.

"We in this state do not have the right to preclude registration or enrollment on immigration status. And I can tell you unequivocally, if we tried, the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) would challenge the district and probably prevail," Antonelli said.

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