By BRENT BATTEN
Posted December 21, 2009
I swear we don’t plan this stuff out.
But no sooner than does a series of articles about the Collier County Sheriff’s Office program to deport troublesome illegal aliens conclude than an illegal alien is in the headlines, and not in a good way.
The sheriff’s program, as outlined in stories Sunday and Monday, targets illegal immigrants who run afoul of the law. Deputies, through extra training, are empowered to enforce federal laws and begin deportation proceedings as they see fit. In places without the program, local authorities have to rely on federal agents to undertake the deportation process against known illegal immigrants residing in their jails, a demand the feds are not always prepared to meet.
The program and the articles about it elicited the predictable responses from good-hearted people who see tragedy in the separation of families. They fret over the anxiety experienced by those who skirted the rules to find a better life in the United States yet are one traffic stop away from losing it.
Then along comes Mauricio Escalante. The 33-year-old illegal immigrant was arrested Saturday for stabbing to death a 17-year-old on the streets of Immokalee.
The teenager’s affront that set off the fatal confrontation — daring to speak English in America.
According to Sheriff’s Office reports, around 3 a.m. Saturday Charlie Guzman and some friends gathered at the laundry of an apartment complex on Colorado Avenue. Three others, including Escalante, were already there and the two groups began talking until a dispute erupted over the victim’s group speaking English, not Spanish.
Escalante went to a nearby apartment, got a knife, and fatally stabbed Guzman, according to reports.
So much for the notion that illegal immigrants are universally a hard-working, law abiding set committed to doing the jobs Americans won’t do, all while trying to assimilate.
While plenty of people in the community of illegal immigrants, a majority, no doubt, fit that description, there are bad actors in the group.
The bad actors are the ones targeted by the sheriff’s program. For proof of that, one need look no further than Escalante. A year ago, he wound up in jail because deputies found him so drunk he was deemed to be a threat to himself or others.
But being drunk out of your mind in public isn’t the sort of thing that gets you deported under the sheriff’s system.
“Until the murder, he didn’t have a criminal history with us,” Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Karie Partington said.
In two years, about 2,200 illegal immigrants have been either deported or are awaiting deportation through the sheriff’s efforts. Among that many cases, there are bound to be a few where the triggering offenses seem minor or the hardship upon family members here legally seems great.
But there are hardships to be borne by turning a blind eye toward illegal immigrants among us.
Ask the family of Charlie Guzman.