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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Friday, May 02, 2014

DA: No Safe Haven For Foreign Criminals in NorCo

John Morganelli
You'd never think that a 2008 botched drug arrest in Allentown would serve as the basis of a news conference by a Northampton County District Attorney in 2014. But it did. On May 1, John Morganelli called a news conference, not so much to discuss the arrest, but to discuss a recent civil rights ruling by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in that matter. That's the second highest court in the country, and the three judges issued a ruling that have local police departments worried about whether they should continue honoring detainers that are issued issued by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) against foreign criminals the federal agency intends to deport. Morganelli made clear that these federal notices must still be honored.

The circumstances that led to this unusual news conference result from the arrest of a United States citizen at an Allentown construction site, who was accused with Dominican Republic immigrants of being involved in drug activity. He was eventually exonerated. In fact, he made bail soon after his arrest, but the jail refused to release him. This is because ICE had lodged a detainer.

An immigration detainer is a notice that ICE provides to local and state law enforcement officials, informing them of the federal government's intention to take custody of an undocumented alien under local control. It expires after 48 hours.  It expired in the Allentown case, too. But it spawned a civil rights lawsuit against the arresting officers, Allentown and Lehigh County.

Lehigh County argued that the ICE detainer left it with no choice but to continue holding this citizen, even though he made bail. But the Third Circuit disagreed, noting that ICE detainers are simply requests.

At his news conference, Morganelli agreed that this citizen has a case, but this exception does not prove the rule. "The fear of litigation ... cannot chill law enforcement in its duty to enforce the law," he argued. Calling illegal immigration a "public safety issue," the DA ticked off numerous examples of crimes committed nearly every day by a majority, just to hide their status. These include identity theft, the fraudulent use of social security numbers, tax evasion and driving without a license. But he is more concerned about serious crime, and provided handouts with numerous examples involving drug distribution, prostitution rings that take advantage of young women and even terrorism.

So he wants those detainers honored. "This is making sure that Northampton County does not become a safe haven for foreign criminals," he reasoned.

Morganelli wants the jail to continue honoring ICE detainers, but acknowledged that is Executive John Brown's call. "He runs the prison, not John Morganelli."

Asked whether he will continue honoring ICE detainers, Executive John Brown said he met with Morganelli and is generally supportive, but just needs a few days to review everything.

Morganelli was asked about Los Angeles and Philadelphia, where ICE detainers are ignored.

"If they want their cities to become magnets for foreign criminals, I have no problem with that," said Morganelli. "I want to send the opposite message."


Anonymous said...

This is all well and good for the DA to take a hard nosed approach to illegal "undocumented" aliens. he isn't the one getting sued. We the taxpayers pay the bill.
Also, isn't calling these lawbreakers "undocumented" aliens kind of like calling a drug dealer an "undocumented" Pharmicist?

Bernie O'Hare said...

This is not taking a hard stance on undocumented workers. This is a reasonable measure designed to keep foreign criminals out of NC.

Peter J.Cochran said...

Mr. D.A. Remember I wrote you a letter about Worker's Compensation and how IF YOU ARE employed by a contractor and the litmus test for "EMPLOYEE" . Failure to provide WC in Pennsylvania is a 3rd degree FELONY .Prosecute the violators. No Job here- illeagal don't hang out here . Their babies aren't born here free., and run up hospital costs.

Anonymous said...

The lehighcounty people that represent the city officials have roled out the redd carpet to inhabit there uninhabitable blight that is on the rentable housing market stock in allentown pa¿ City official have been incubating this magnetic pull with the help of local edited out news releases that have no verifiable facts backing there expenditures for the qulity of life issues truly facing reality¿

This is not economic development 666, were the housing stock is a secodary factor because HUD will pay to subzidize that development as well¿

Anonymous said...

The DA doesn't have a choice in this. It is up to the county and it's executive. If he say's no holding then that is what it is.

Anonymous said...

Above the law?