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Letters From the Issue of Thursday, November 30, 2006

Stinks on ICE

Frankenstein's agency: Thank you for your very accurate article regarding the disaster known as ICE ("Meltdown," Ray Stern, November 16).

I recently left ICE (I tell friends that I "abandoned a sinking ship"!) as a group supervisor to accept a position at another federal agency. I started with U.S. Customs in 1987 and would still be a productive, satisfied employee had ICE not been created.

A small core group of us with an average of 15-20 years' experience (at Customs) have tried unsuccessfully for the last three years to get some public attention and congressional traction to fix what was not broken before ICE was formed. Customs agents were in shock that a successful agency with a rich history and mission such as the Customs Service would be dismantled and merged with a dysfunctional agency such as the INS at the stroke of a pen. The government effectively transplanted diseased organs into a healthy patient, and now that patient is terminally ill.

The appointments of such unqualified leadership at ICE like Michael Garcia and Julie Myers further compound the problems, and this further validates the Bush administration's lack of concern.

Only failure and public and congressional outrage will be the catalyst to get this addressed. Thanks for your in-depth coverage that shone the light of day on this embarrassment.
Name withheld by request

Not in their backyard: No doubt ICE has its problems, especially in Arizona. I agree the office needs more agents. But the special agents of ICE are not there to "respond" to every state, county, city police department.

They are there to perform investigations of organizations committing immigration fraud, smuggling, and document manufacturing/vending. They are also around to arrest criminal aliens (major felons only, because there are too many right now in the United States and ICE has too many other duties with enforcing both customs and immigration laws).

ICE, simply put, is not a police department, it is an investigative agency. The unfortunate truth is that it takes about three to four hours to process an illegal alien. If I'm an ICE supervisor, I don't want my agents "responding" to police calls to pick up illegals. With the current number of special agents, that would be all they could do.

My estimation of the situation is that the ICE special agents are overwhelmed with police calls. They quickly burn out with merely processing aliens, and with not having the time left to investigate anything of any consequence.

Adding to the problem is the fact that former Customs Service folks don't like being associated with investigating anything related to immigration. Part of that stems from the fact that they don't get adequate training in immigration law, they don't have any experience in this type of investigating, and they don't want to get it.

Simply put, the average importation of narcotics case is much simpler than an alien-smuggling case. Kilos of drugs don't have to be fed, medicated or go to the bathroom under escort. The agent simply field-tests, marks it as evidence and takes it to a lab. The few people arrested from the drug seizure go to a county jail. The jail has no right to refuse a prisoner on federal criminal charges. The jails do have the right to refuse to house an alien arrested on "administrative" charges of deportation. So the arresting agent of an alien often has to literally shop for housing the arrestee. Many jails don't meet the federal criteria for housing federal prisoners, so the agent may well have to drive unexpected distances to lock up an alien.

Neville Cramer, whom you quoted, has not arrested anyone in many, many years. He has been an HQ type for at least the past 15-20 years. He did not quit ICE or INS. He retired on a nice pension. He might try to equate his years of overseas work to being in the "field," but essentially it was for HQ. Most of his career was in and around the D.C. beltway in Washington. He hasn't dealt with what the average ICE agent deals with today in Arizona, and he should know it.

Let's face it, America, we are just flat overrun with illegals. Amnesty isn't the answer. ICE can't totally answer a nationwide problem. We all have to just do our part: Don't hire illegals, don't condone those who do, support the agencies left with the problem.

ICE agents are left with a legacy of both U.S. political parties patronizing alien-rights groups for many decades, at the expense of middle America. The hand-wringing and whining better stop, because it can get worse.
Bob Trent, via the Internet

Rearrange those deck chairs: As a special agent with ICE, formerly of the Customs Service, I applaud your article titled "Meltdown" by Ray Stern. However, I would like to see a follow-up examining why ICE was created and split from the U.S. Border Patrol and why Congress won't merge the two agencies back. Numerous entities have advocated for the merger.
Tony Cicerone, New York  

No aliens, no problem: From your "Meltdown" story: "The bust went well, ultimately leading to the convictions of Tolle and her associates, plus a state prison guard, for scamming about 500 immigrants who thought they were paying for real green cards."

You're kidding, right? First of all, they're not "immigrants," they're illegal aliens. Second, why would these officers even care if illegal aliens were getting scammed? The aliens know damned good and well what they're buying isn't a real legal document. It's the entire reason they pay so much to be smuggled here.

Sounds to me like the Arizona troopers were more concerned with protecting the non-rights of illegal aliens. If they're going to make a bust, then bust all involved.

I've lived in Arizona for 11 years now, and the place is crawling with illegals who are, literally, getting away with murder. It's sickening! Deport them all!
D. Maher, Chandler

Half empty or half full?: The article on ICE is no surprise to me. Although there are usually two sides to every story, ICE has not fulfilled its mission mandate to locate and apprehend illegal aliens.

In March 2003, I was cautiously optimistic that ICE might begin doing the job it was supposed to do. As a former special agent with the legacy INS, a job I enjoyed doing, I saw the dismantling and demoralization of an entire agency. I chronicle the events that explain the demise of the INS in my book Law Enforcement & the INS.

I have no clue what is going to happen now that the Democrats control Congress. I am not optimistic at all.
G. Weissinger, Northport, New York

Sketchy Criticism

Filling a niche: I think Stephen Lemons did the art community a disservice when he bashed Dr. Sketchy's Anti-Art School ("Art School Confidential," The Bird, November 16). There are so few places for artists to go to draw or paint in an open-session environment in Phoenix. Even fewer that incorporate any type of interesting themes and costumes.

Lemons' focus in the article was that the model was "less-than-gorgeous" (it was a Halloween zombie pose) and that there was "no firewater and no excitement." First of all, I understand that Lemons didn't actually go to the Anti-Art School event himself, but sent someone in his place and then wrote his article based on her opinion. But is he even an artist?

If you require "full-frontal nekkid-ness" and booze to be amused, why don't you skip the life-drawing session, get loaded and go to Le Girls?

Instead of bashing Molly Crabapple, Rachel Bess, and Matt Dickson, who are working very hard to provide local artists with a place to work, why not support the fact that this is a space that isn't like every other life-drawing session you've ever been to? If Lemons has been to any.

As a real artist, who really draws, and who really has gone to Anti-Art to work, I think the project, the models and the people involved in making the sessions happen are doing a great job. I hope Anti-Art School attracts many more artists and interesting models and is able to grow and thrive in the downtown art community.
Gingher Leyendecker, Mesa

More sex and drugs might help: I don't know anything about this Dr. Sketchy night in downtown Phoenix, but it does sound pretty pathetic based on The Bird's description.

I used to be deep into the art scene in New York in the '80s (more as a hanger-on than an artist), and I can tell you that doing all kinds of drugs and sex was pretty normal for the artists I knew. Ever see that film Basquiat? Very decadent. That's the way we were.

Artists here seem afraid of their own shadows. I don't know if it's the town, the times or the climate. (Maybe the heat makes them sleepy.) I was quickly disappointed in it when I moved here. Re ading The Bird's Dr. Sketchy review brought all that disappointment back. Artists in Phoenix need a cattle prod up their privates. Dr. Sketchy is a good example why.
Jen Rogers, Glendale

Not good for the ganderer: About Dr. Sketchy's Anti-Art School: There was no mention of the minor drama that occurred when one of the patrons was asked to leave for being a pervert. This was defined as just gandering and not using his pad and pencil.  

Yes, I do find the class somewhat lacking in certain areas when compared to real art school. This is mainly because of the lack of structure and interaction. I would not recommend the class to someone with little drawing experience. I'm not complaining, as I did win a pad of paper there.
Brian Ruggeri, Phoenix

Sexy As a Heart Attack

Nurse on this: As an Arizona expatriate I still enjoy your "liberal rag" immensely. I see that the demons of political correctness have come out to assail The Bird's item on the Heart Attack Grill ("Nursing Grudge," November 9) on your "Feathered Bastard" blog site.

As a nurse myself for more than 15 years, I don't see how anyone can confuse registered nurses with the waitresses at the grill. After all, the waitresses are probably better paid, better treated and younger.

Maybe the nursing board and the state government (the Attorney General's Office, specifically) should be working on strategies to mitigate the nursing shortage instead of going after this restaurant. As far as the strip club Bandaids goes, I saw one of my fellow nurses working there once.

Again, I don't think anyone is going to confuse Bandaids with going to the emergency room.
Bill Maley, Laguna Niguel, California

Es Verdad

Ask a reader: I love the Ask a Mexican! column in New Times. Can't wait to read it every week! Not only is the Mexican intelligent in his responses, but I fall out of my chair laughing at the truth. This is to thank you for the laughs and pray that it continues to be a part of the paper.
Kim Sblendorio, Phoenix

Still Rolling

Now and forever: What a pleasure it was to read your article on the Rolling Stones concert ("Lip Service," Niki D'Andrea, November 16). I couldn't agree with you more about their relevance and the fact that great fucking songs will usually equal a great show. Thanks again for the write-up — I'm sucking on it, honey.
Jim Lugo, Scottsdale

He'll never, never, never stop: Man, I'm so glad that somebody at New Times has musical taste! I've dug the Rolling Stones ever since I first heard "Start Me Up"! Just that simple riff coming out of the radio was all I needed to finally get it! I knew for the first time what rock and roll was supposed to be all about!

About eight years ago I got the Stones tongue tattooed on my right arm, and there it sits today, still the coolest tattoo I've got.

I hate it when people talk about how old they are. They're just jealous because Hootie and the Blowjob ain't around anymore!

And another thing, has anyone else noticed how the VH1 classic channel has treated the Stones like shit lately? I watched the channel's whole "Class of '81" thing the other day, and there was not one mention of the Stones from that year! What the fuck is up with that?
Jon Krieger, Phoenix


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