New Florida immigration chief says felons are top priority
September 8, 2010 § Leave a comment
Palm Bch Post — Marc Jeffrey Moore is accustomed to working in hot spots. He was once a Border Patrol agent on the long, sweltering boundary between the U.S. and Mexico. Now, after rising through the ranks, first in Texas and then in Washington, he has been named regional field director for Florida, in charge of apprehensions and removals of illegal immigrants for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. That puts him in charge of 585 officers and special agents and more than 500 other contract employees in Florida, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. He oversees seven detention facilities and 1,900 “detention beds.” Moore, a 49-year-old father of five, arrives in an election year in which immigration is a hot-button issue marked by emotional debate. Florida is home to hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants, many of whom work in key state industries such as agriculture, construction and hospitality. Moore says neither he nor his officers make policy; they simply carry it out. But they are increasingly busy doing so. Although most people detained and deported by ICE are undocumented workers without serious criminal records, the agency’s emphasis is changing, Moore said. In an Aug. 20 memo, John Morton, national ICE director, affirmed that the agency is putting a priority on the capture of undocumented immigrants convicted of crimes. “In fiscal year 2008-2009, we arrested and removed 136,000 convicted criminal aliens,” Moore said of ICE officers nationwide. “This year, we have one month left in the fiscal year and we’re at 170,000.” More than 4,000 of those were captured in Florida. The term “convicted criminal alien” is key for Moore. He emphasizes that ICE officers under his command do not conduct “sweeps,” casting nets and picking up anyone in a specific locale solely because they are in the country illegally. ICE places a priority on pursuing illegal immigrants guilty of violent crimes: homicide, kidnapping, rape and other sex offenses, and serious drug crimes. Those “Level I” criminals can include members of violent gangs. Next the agency moves to “Level II” offenses, including burglary, low-level drug offenses or people guilty of repeated misdemeanors. Some of those criminals may have been deported previously.