April 04, 2009

Immigration act aids communities

The Baltimore Sun's editorial "No way to police immigration" (March 20) was factually incorrect.

As one of the co-authors of the legislation that created Section 287(g), I know that it was created to let state and local law enforcement officials help enforce all federal immigration laws and remove illegal immigrants from the streets. It was not our intent that the program would only be used to address "serious crime," as the editorial suggests.

And it works. The Frederick County sheriff told Congress that the 287(g) program helps his county. The chairman of the Prince William County, Va., Board of Supervisors testified that his county kept 111 criminal aliens from returning to the streets in just three months through the program.

The program is so successful that the annual number of jurisdictions participating rose from one in 2002 to 67 today.

Federal officials can't keep up with the demand. In fiscal year 2007, they received 69 new applications to participate, the vast majority of which were rejected because of limited funding.

Illegal immigration affects local communities - increasing crime, straining health and education systems and taking jobs from citizens and legal immigrants.

We should continue to support the law enforcement agencies that want to make our communities better and safer.

Rep. Lamar Smith, Washington

The writer is the ranking Republican on the House Judiciary Committee.

Casino bill lacks public protection

When you want something badly, you usually get it - and get it done badly. And this is likely to be the case with the Anne Arundel County executive and his proposal to change the local zoning code to allow the operation of a slots casino in the county ("Reversal of fortune," editorial, April 1).

He promised community protections as part of the legislation that would amend the county code to allow the casino.

But the bill provides only minimal protections to the community and the region. It would not even subject the final development and traffic plans for the casino to public review.

This bill is ill-conceived and does little to protect the future neighbors of the casino the bill would allow. It must not pass in its current form.

Rob Annicelli, Hanover

Fighting fraud cuts cost of health care

Businesses across Maryland are facing a tough choice between paying skyrocketing health insurance premiums and cutting out such benefits for their employees. So it's ironic that the head of the Maryland Chamber of Commerce would write to support the death of legislation that would have partly addressed this problem ("Health fraud bill deserved defeat," letters, April 1).

A false claims act in Maryland would greatly aid the state in helping to detect fraud by medical providers.

Similar legislation on the federal level and in other states has given whistle-blowers incentive to come forth and report fraud. And false claims acts have helped to reduce the cost of health insurance.

Some reports estimate that crooked medical providers steal more than $100 billion each year from health systems nationwide. That's a price that businesses and individuals subsidize through higher premiums and higher taxes.

During a time of economic struggles, lawmakers and the Maryland Chamber of Commerce should be supporting tools that reduce fraud and the burden we all bear to afford health coverage.

Dennis Jay, Annapolis

The writer is executive director of the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud.

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