Local News

Benefit Of Proposed CLEAR Act Apparently Still Not Clear

Posted March 9, 2004 6:44 a.m. EST

— A man charged in a deadly stabbing over the weekend made his first court appearance Monday.

Marvin Lopez is accused of killing Wilfredo Dardon outside a Fuquay-Varina convenience store. Deputies arrested a second man for lying to investigators, and they believe both men are illegal immigrants.

In cases like this, officers call the government to report immigration violations. If a new bill gets through Congress, officers will have even more power when it comes to immigration enforcement.

Wake County deputies charged Lopez with murder. In the future, police also could charge him with a possible immigration violation.

Under proposed federal legislation, known as the


local officers would be able to enforce immigration laws.

According to lawmakers, it is a national security issue. Opponents call it crazy.

"It would put a big target on Latinos," said Hilton Cancel, of

El Pueblo,

a local Latino advocacy group.

Cancel has more than 20 years of law enforcement experience. He said the CLEAR Act would prevent crime victims from calling police.

"They're afraid immigration could come in and take them away and be victimized a second time," Cancel said.

The Georgia congressman who authored the bill, Charlie Norwood, said it was meant to go after aliens commiting crimes, not crime victims. Local opponents fear that is not clear in the CLEAR Act.

Rep. Mike McIntyre believes the CLEAR Act is necessary, saying: "we must do all that we can to curb the flow of illegal immigrants within our borders. The CLEAR Act would be a big step in that direction."

About 80,000 known criminal aliens still live in this country. The Immigration and Naturalization Service said it does not have the manpower to track those criminals when they get out of jail, and the CLEAR Act could eliminate that problem.

A lot of local people in law enforcement have concerns about the legislation. Chapel Hill's police chief said it could be considered racial profiling. He also wonders how small-town departments would handle this new role.

Cary Police Chief Windy Hunter -- who said Monday he was just learning about the bill -- believes the CLEAR Act actually could work against solving crime.

"If folks are going to be concerned about being deported if they contact law enforcement with information, and we have to verify their information and their credibility, I see it causing a lot of issues," Hunter said.

North Carolina Rep. Mel Watt is speaking out against the CLEAR Act. He sits on the Judiciary Committee, which has the bill right now. He said he does not support the bill because of the extra burden it places on law enforcement.