Dad's fight illustrates feds' lack of transparency on immigration
This has not been the best of times for the FBI. The organization built by J. Edgar Hoover into what has long been known as the “finest law enforcement agency in the world” has seen its image take a beating lately for its involvement in various political affairs. The last thing it needed was Don Rosenberg.
A retiree from Southern California, Rosenberg’s story has been told elsewhere, but it is worth repeating. Don’s son Drew, 25, was a law student in the Bay Area who was riding a motorcycle when he was struck and killed by a motorist. The driver, a native of Honduras named Roberto Galo, had just been stopped by police and ticketed for driving down a one-way street in the wrong direction without a license or insurance and released before he struck Drew at a low speed but then accelerated driving over his body, backed up over him and then went forward again in an attempt to flee the scene.
On top of the horror of losing a child, what followed was nothing less than a nightmare for Rosenberg and his family. They were subjected to the maddening bureaucracy, politics and illogic of the legal system as they sought to bring Galo to justice. Investigating the case on his own, Rosenberg discovered that Galo was in the country illegally but was given temporary protected status and was cited by police five months prior to Drew’s death for a traffic violation and driving without a license or insurance. The last two charges were dropped. When the criminal justice system decided Galo’s fate, it was insult on top of injury: misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter and driving without a license, six months in jail and released after 43 days.
Prior to Drew’s death, Don Rosenberg was no immigration hawk. A former entertainment industry sales executive and a lifelong liberal Democrat, he has since become an activist on the dangers of illegal immigration and founded the group Advocates for Victims of Illegal Alien Crime. One of his recent projects was to obtain statistical information from the FBI and the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) on illegal alien crime going back to the 1950s.
As with his experience dealing with the criminal justice system after his son’s death, getting raw data from the federal government on immigration was an uphill battle. With the assistance of the Federation for American Immigration Reform and the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI), Rosenberg filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the two agencies. After numerous delays, information was provided to Rosenberg, but the FBI deliberately converted the information, originally in a chart that could be manipulated and searchable, into an unsearchable PDF format. That meant the many hundreds of thousands of data entries were useless for Rosenberg’s purpose of attempting to piece together statistical trends of illegal alien crime over the decades.
When asked to release the data in its original format, the response given by the FBI and BOP was that to do so would reveal metadata. That claim was disputed by IRLI lawyers and, after more months of wrangling, the FBI prepared a declaration claiming the agency had no way to release the data in a form that would allow interested members of the public to reverse-engineer the document and obtain information exempt from FOIA. However, the FBI must not have had much faith that a judge would find the claims it made in its declaration believable, because when IRLI made clear that it would press Rosenberg’s challenge to the claims the FBI made before the judge, the agency agreed to release the documents in the format Rosenberg asked for after all. In the world of FOIA requests and coerced government transparency, it was a big victory.
Rosenberg will soon begin the daunting task of sifting through the government data, which may provide more insight into the full scope of America’s problem with illegal immigration and crime. It also begs the question, why is our government so reluctant to part with statistical data on immigration? Is it even collecting the most relevant data and asking the right questions? According to Julie Axelrod, the IRLI lawyer who filed the case, “My experience with this case certainly gives me every impression that the often-repeated claim that illegal aliens commit proportionally fewer crimes than Americans is based solely on the government not keeping statistics on how many crimes illegal aliens actually commit.”
Given that powerful political interests are fully invested in the concept of open borders and a permissive immigration policy, it seems the last thing they want is for the American public to know the truth about the full impact illegal immigration has on the country.
Brian Lonergan is director of communications at the Immigration Reform Law Institute, a public interest law firm working to defend the rights and interests of the American people from the negative effects of mass migration.
Also published at: Brian Lonergan, Dad's fight illustrates feds' lack of transparency on immigration, The Hill, March 30, 2018