Santa Claus Melts ICE Secure Communities Contract
North Pole, 6 days before Christmas
Special report by Thomas Esparza, Jr.
Santa’s Workshop, North Pole. -- In what has been heralded as the most progressive policy in the world, Santa Clause has imposed a new guidelines for immigration detainers, which in effect ends the North Pole county collaboration with Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE).
Mrs. Claus, who championed the policy, told an excited audience of gnomes, elves and reindeer, “Today is historic. We work in ice year round we don’t need more ICE. No children should go to Santa’s workshop school afraid that their parent might not be there to pick
them up. Now the whole world will be looking for us to deliver presents and Santa can stop sleeping on the couch."
Immigration detainers are requests from ICE to North Pole police, the Gnome Partrol, and the North Pole County Sheriff’s office to detain jailed Elves, gnomes and reindeer after their release from Gnome custody no matter how small the infraction. They are put on ice inthe county jail for ICE detention and deportation.
They are not always kept at the North Pole but sometimes taken as far away as Siberia or Alaska. A study, two years ago found that the liberal North Pole county had the highest number of deportations of the entire United States and that the vast majority of those deported were for the most minor of infractions. The North Pole Sheriff said he would study the report.
Santa, who pays the county bills, will no longer honor a detainer request until there is a written agreement with the federal government to repay all costs incurred by North Pole County Sheriff’s office, Gnome PD and Santa’s Workshop complying with the ICE detainer. " “Our ice is not for free!" he said.
Rolled out in 2008, Secure Communities uses fingerprints automatically gathered at jails to notify ICE agents of the immigration status of anyone brought in to place a detainer. Reindeer who are especially susceptible to racial profiling, almost never carry a current ID, and are notoriously hard to fingerprint are almost always subject to the detainer. Even worse, the vast majority of the crimes are small petty crimes for which normally only a ticket and fine are imposed. However, some rogue police and sheriff’s deputy gnomes are engaging in species profiling. Says Santa, “how can you tell a legal gnome, elf, or reindeer from an illegal one." The Sheriff can’t control his gnomes that is sure.
Since the inception of the program, USCIS has not reimbursed Santa, Mrs. Claus or North Pole County for any detainers. “With the elfin, gnomes and reindeer in jail we have to feed their families, keep them in schools and provide counseling when we should be making toys"
Santa said. "Who is going to fly my sleigh? We should be getting toys ready for the Christmas."
The program also has received pushback from snowmen, gnomes, elves, and reindeer who say Secure Communities targets their constitutional protections, places financial hardships on families, creates distrust of law enforcement and jeopardizes the entire Christmas production job. It also jeopardizes public safety by making North Pole workers afraid to go to flying school or Santa’s Workshop or to report the real crimes that are committed.
One caller, who wished to remain anonymous except to say he was an interested Snowman, told this writer “until we ice the border of North Pole county we have to deport them all." When reminded that the Elves, gnomes and reindeer all had children born at the North Pole and that Santa picked up the tab for taking care of them, the caller stated, “let them eat ice!"
In his press release describing the frosty relationship with ICE, Santa said, “Frankly, there has been a lack of integrity from ICE on these issues. Putting Elves and reindeer on ice for ICE for a minor infractions such as wearing your nose to bright, ice skating, flying without a license, disorderly Ho, Ho Hoing, or jay flying is a waste of time and money. Besides when you deport an elf, reindeer of Gnome home where do they go?"
Santa’s frustration comes from a history of commitments from ICE that melted away. “They told me I could opt out of Secure Communities but broke their promise after I tried to do so in 2010," Santa said.
In the wake of ICE’s about face, Santa formed a taskforce of the Gnome PD, as well as elves, and reindeer, to craft a policy around the principle operating mechanism of Secured Communities – the detainer request. The Sheriff, as has been his practice, declined to attend saying he had to study the statistics more.
In November, the taskforce came up with a policy that would allow North Pole County to only honor detainers after conviction (through Secure Communities, even those who had not been found guilty of the crime that placed them in jail were still vulnerable to a detainer hold), would not honor detainer requests for juvenile reindeer, gnomes or elves, and would only honor requests for a specific list of “serious" and "violent" felonies.
The policy in practice would mean only a narrow few would be subject to detention at the ICE box like detention facility in Piersallhope, Alaska. Said Santa “Our costs of keeping snowmen, gnomes, elves, and reindeer on ice or in pens will drop dramatically."
Even then, Santa wants to further limit the scope of when the he will honor detainer requests until ICE agrees to pay for keeping people on ice.
A spokesman for CUBE (Critters United to Be Equal), Ima Elf, said, “We congratulate the Santa and Mrs. Clause for sending a clear message to North Pole immigrant communities that the Gnome patrol is not ICE." We don’t need ICE in our CUBE. They also called on Santa to change Sheriff at the next election. We wanted a Sheriff for everyone who lives at the North Pole, not a clown."
Ms. Elf says since Secure Communities was introduced, her office has received an uptick in calls from residents who were victims of crime, yet fearful to contact the Gnome Patrol or the North Pole County Sheriff’s posse because of their own status.
While Elf says the policy change will greatly impact communities at the North Pole, some reindeer see this as a signal that the tide is shifting as local communities develop similar strategies to respond to an increase in ICE enforcement.
Rudolph T. RNR, a staff attorney with the Elf Legal Resource Center, works with coalitions like CUBE in regions across the United States. He says, “Santa is sending the message that local participation in the enforcement of immigration laws is not mandatory and that due process and equal treatment under the law applies to and benefits everyone including snowmen, gnomes, elves and reindeer. End this policy now. I have a herd to lead."
Santa said “Tom, tell those children we are working hard at getting our production line going again, send me those lists, there will be a Christmas!"
Tom Esparza, is specialist in immigration and nationality in Texas with over 35 years of experience. He wishes everyone a very merry Christmas.