Situation Highlights Issues That Local Law Enforcement Faces With Illegal Immigration

The national quandary of illegal immigration has significant local ramifications on budgets and public safety.

Sheriff Lee Foster says that one local case in particular highlights how local law enforcement, first responders and health care providers often are the ones left picking up the pieces when the system fails to work as it should. A flawed system that pits locals against the federal government and then against the state.

Anselma Rico-Martinez, 27, of Tarrant Street, Newberry, appears to suffer from serious mental health issues but often becomes aggressive toward others or commits acts that endanger herself and others. The Newberry Police Department has had numerous dealings with her and she has been arrested seven times since March 8. Rico-Martinez displays obvious signs of mental illness and is combative to the law enforcement and correctional officers, who are forced to deal with her.

When the correctional officers contact the Department of Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) as required by law, ICE refuses to deport her because she is mentally ill. So, law enforcement transports Rico-Martinez to the emergency room for medical/mental evaluation. Rico-Martinez is often combative with their staff as well, but because Rico-Martinez is an illegal alien she is not eligible for placement with the Department of Mental Health. Hospital staff is forced to provide emergency care and then release Rico-Martinez back onto the public, and the vicious circle starts all over again.

In fact, on at least one occasion Rico-Martinez has not even made it from the parking lot of the hospital of the immediate area before law enforcement is called and her actions dictate that she be arrested again.

After a recent arrest, she was released from jail after serving a determinate sentence and due to her actions in the jail; she was taken to Newberry County Memorial Hospital’s ER for treatment and placement. However; because she is illegally in the country, an official with the South Carolina Department of Mental Health said she is not eligible for treatment. The hospital released her and she walked to a nearby shopping center where she confronted customers and standing in traffic hitting cars. Police officers arrested her and she was again placed in the Newberry County Jail. A local magistrate released her stating she was mentally ill and did not belong in jail. He advised the jail staff to take her to for mental health help. Since it was the weekend the only place available was back to the local hospital. The hospital again released her. She did not clear the doors of the hospital before she got into confrontations with patrons of the hospital. She was released from custody again and then broke into a car and stole some personal items from the car so she was arrested again.

“An enormous amount of time and tax payer dollar is being expended on this woman, not to mention the danger she is to herself and the public” said Sheriff Foster. “Worse yet, there simply seems to be no end in sight to the situation. While some agencies chose who they accept and decline first responders such local law enforcement and public safety must deal with every person they encounter, good or bad. We must see a move to support the local first responder because I have long said you cannot have homeland security without hometown security.”

Sheriff said that from his understanding of the law introduced in South Carolina regarding illegal immigration would offer no assistance in this situation or those like it because deportation lies solely with ICE. The state government cannot compel the federal government to take action. We can only notify them, as we have done in this case, and they have to take action.

“This is a most frustrating situation but is endemic of a problem that is going to have to be dealt with so that nightmares no longer take place,” said Foster.

“This is a prime example of a federal problem that they refuse to deal with and just dump it on the local government. The federal government has failed to stem the tide of illegal immigration, yet when there is a problem in the local community with illegal immigrants, they have the luxury of saying they can’t deport or detain someone because they are mentally ill,” said Foster. “Then due to state laws and policies, not to mention lack of insurance, the state government won’t help because this individual is illegal. This puts it back on the local government to deal with creating bureaucratic double talk that resembles an episode from M*A*S*H.”

Sheriff Foster said that he had an idea that may help the local tax payer in this situation. “I am going to do is figure up the cost of this problem and bill the federal government for this, said Sheriff Foster. “I realize the possibility of collecting anything from the federal government is minimal. I am also going to ask the county attorney and/or the SC Attorney General’s Office to assist in efforts to sue members of the federal government that refuse to act.”

Anselma Rico-Martinez has the following arrests:
March 8 – Disorderly Conduct (Released April 6)
April 7 – Shoplifting (Released April 23)
April 30 – Assault and Battery (Released May 3)
May 4 – Disorderly Conduct, Open Container, Resisting Arrest (Released May 25)
May 25 – Petit Larceny (Released June 4)
June 10 – Littering, Disorderly Conduct, Interfering With Traffic (Release June 11)
June 11 – Breaking Into An Automobile and Petit Larceny (Still In Custody)

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