Thursday, June 08, 2006

Republican AG Candidates Grasping at Straws

The campaign strategy of the two Republican AG candidates seems to be to capitalize on hot-button political issues by making drastic public statements about how they would fill supposedly gaping holes in state law enforcement operations if elected.

The first out of the gate with this strategy was J.B. Van Hollen, who made public statements in April (although they have continued since) about the existence of terrorist activity in Wisconsin. Declining to provide specifics, Van Hollen alleged that terrorist cells are currently training and raising funds in the state.

The implication in this statement, of course, is that current AG Peg Lautenschlager is not doing enough to fight terrorism in Wisconsin. Even Van Hollen's primary opponent Paul Bucher called these statements "irresponsible."

Now it appears to be Paul Bucher's turn to make a public spectacle. Bucher released a statement yesterday based upon research he has done that identifies 77 undocumented immigrants who have been paroled in Wisconsin since 2003.

Dave Diamond and Cory Liebmann have already taken Bucher to task for his release, so there isn't much need to repeat the critiques here.

But I do want to point out the Journal-Sentinel article on the Bucher release that appears today. The article reads like a roller coaster in which every allegation made by Bucher is quickly explained and dismissed by those who are actually involved in state immigration issues.

Take the instance where Bucher makes the claim that he would work with federal authorities to start deportation hearings while undocumented immigrants are still in state custody. Interestingly enough, the head of the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement office in Milwaukee, John Nienhardt, replied that the state is already taking those steps.

In fact, Nienhardt added that the federal government currently reviews every single case where undocumented immigrants are held in Wisconsin prisons, and in a number of the cases deportation isn't even a legal option.

In response to Bucher, the Department of Corrections also noted that federal authorities are the ones who decide who is in the country illegally, and that anyone the feds want gets turned over to them. There's really nothing more the AG can do in the matter.

Perhaps the Republican AG candidates should stick to telling the public how they would conduct existing operations differently rather than trying to score cheap political points using even cheaper scare tactics based on nonexistent holes in our state law enforcement.

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UPDATE (10:25am): I tweaked the language in the last paragraph -- the substance is the same.

LATE UPDATE: For my analysis of Bucher's immigration plan, see here.

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