Albion Killing Sparks Renewed Debate On Illegal Immigrants

7:55 PM, Nov 1, 2011   |    comments
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BUFFALO, NY - Police in Orleans County have recovered two knives in a cornfield, which will undergo forensic tests to determine if either was used in the deadly stabbing of an Albion woman in a WalMart parking lot.

Police say the man now accused of murder in connection with the slaying was in the country illegally.

The homicide has also renewed the debate over curbing illegal immigration.

The U.S.Department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) deported nearly 400,000 individuals in the 2011 fiscal year which ended in September. It also says 55% of those deportees had felony or misdemeanor convictions.

They included 1,000 murderers, 5,800 sex offenders, and 80,000 people convicted of drug related crimes or driving under the influence of alcohol.

Some groups, like the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), believe an initiative called the Secure Communities program, could help weed out potentially dangerous people, among the estimated 11.2 million who reside in the US without authorization.

In part it allows law enforcement agencies to run the fingerprints of people they arrest against immigration databases, aiming to find illegal immigrants.

But this past summer NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo suspended the state's participation in the program because of concerns about potential abuses.

"Your governor has just scrapped plans for secure communities and has prohibited state police from using an important public safety tool for illegal immigration," said FAIR spokesman Bob Dane.

"In any city in America I'll guarantee you one thing...that tonight an officer will pull someone over in a car for a driving violation and in that car will be five people who don't speak English, nobody will have a drivers license, car registration, proof of insurance, or social security numbers....and at that point common sense would dictate that a law enforcement officer should check into immigration status," Dane said.

"I am 100-percent for the enforcement of U.S immigration law, but that's not the argument," said Buffalo based immigration lawyer Matthew Kolken, who believes Cuomo prudently exercised caution. "The argument is that secure communities can be used to violate the rights of people who are United States citizens," Kolken told WGRZ-TV.

Kolken says this can occur when someone--especially of color and who might have an accent-- is stopped by police and can't readily prove their citizenship. He claims to know of several instances where this has occurred, and where citizens have spent hours--sometimes days in custody, while things get straightened out.

Orleans County Undersheriff Steven D. Smith tells 2 On Your Side that prior to his arrest for the killing of Kathleen Byham during what police believe was an attempted car theft, Luis Rodriguez-Flamenco , 24, was employed as a laborer by Panek Farms of Albion.

Julie Suarez, Director of Public Policy for the New York State Farm Bureau noted that farms, like any other employer, are obligated to secure a number of documents from those seeking work. These include a completed form (commonly called an I-9) in which the employee attests to their eligibility to work legally in the country.
But she notes that documents can be forged and that farmers don't have the resources to prove their authenticity.

"People will always find ways to circumvent rules," Suarez said.

Suarez acknowledged the existence of a federal e-verify system designed to prove an individual's ability to work legally in this country, and says it does work better now than it did years ago.

"However, there's still a central flaw in the system in that if an employee commits identity theft, without biometric identification documents, the employer is still left in a situation of potentially employing an individual who isn't legally authorized to work in this country," said Suarez in an e-mail to 2 On Your Side.

As well, Suarez says that even farmers who are suspicious of the authenticity of documents provided by potential hires, can be hesitant to challenge them and deny someone a job for fear of being sued for discrimination.

Whether the Secure Communities program could have taken accused killer Luis Rodriguez-Flemenco off the streets before Sunday's homicide, is also uncertain.

The Orleans County Sheriff's office says it knows of no prior contact with the Honduran national, and therefore wouldn't have had any opportunity to fingerprint him and check his immigration status.

And while Immigration and Customs Enforcement says most who get deported are repeat offenders, they too, had no prior contact with Flemenco.

Click on the video player to watch our story from 2 On Your Side Reporter Dave McKinley and Photojournalist Bill Boyer.

Click here to read Dave McKinley's latest blogs.


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