Saturday, February 02, 2008

"Contradictory" claims can coexist if you understand border security problems

Since I've been particularly focused on the border this week, it's fitting that the House State Affairs and House Corrections Committees yesterday held a joint hearing on immigration and the justice system at the University of Texas at Dallas, reports the Dallas News ("Conflicting data on crime, immigration presented at legislators' public hearing," Feb. 2; n.b., There's no video online and since the hearing wasn't in Austin, I don't know if there will be.)

I'd need to hear the testimony or read the studies to know for sure, but I don't think I agree with reporter Diana Solis that the research presented by opposing sides was "contradictory." She wrote:

Legislators were presented with two contradictory studies on crime and immigration. One study, co-authored by Ruben Rumbaut of the University of California at Irvine, looked at incarceration rates among young men and showed those rates to be the lowest for immigrants, even those who are the least educated.

Another, authored by Carl Horowitz, of the Center for Immigration Studies, a Washington, D.C., research center, said that criminal gangs with ties to immigrant communities are a problem "understated" in crime statistics and that immigrants are less likely to report crime, according to a presentation by one speaker.

Personally, I don't see those data as contradictory at all. For starters, there's not any question - nothing to debate in the least - that incarceration rates for immigrants are eye poppingly low, much lower than for any class of citizens. The vast majority of illegal immigrants, who make up 8-9% of Texas' workforce, are behaving themselves and not committing the type of public disturbance offenses, e.g., that cause jail populations to balloon on weekends. Of that there's little question.

It's also not too controversial to observe that part of the reason for those numbers is that immigrants are less likely to report crime, giving rise to a criminal population that can target people with no real recourse under law. Theft and extortion top the list of crimes these policies encourage, but family violence is another good example: Will Mommy be less likely to report Daddy if it means he'll be deported? Probably. That's a big security problem, without a doubt.

Finally, there's little doubt that the problem of criminal gangs made up of immigrants is largely "understated," if by that you mean that a few criminal immigrants - mostly associated with large multinational drug cartels like Los Zetas - account for a significant amount of crime, particularly drug smugglers and coyotes (who increasingly, thanks to beefed up anti-immigration policies, are the same people).

So all of those things can easily be true simultaneously: There's nothing "contradictory" about the information as stated here, that I can see. Indeed, that cumulative analysis underlies my own preferences for border security.

The mass of immigrants who come here to work commit few crimes and cause few problems. Lumping them in with "criminals" for enforcement purposes creates a vast cloak whose folds conceal pockets of real criminality (not just illegal entry but victimizing others) that flourish because the appellation "criminal" has been applied to so many who pose no threat.

The drug cartels, by contrast, are wealthy, well-armed multinational criminal gangs, mass murdering thugs protected by corrupt cops whose activities cannot be tolerated in a free society.

America will not succeed at "securing the border," IMO, without removing the cloak of illegal immigration from the cartels' activities. By expanding immigration quotas to match labor demands and legalizing workers already here, it would be a lot easier to target real criminals, if only because immigrant victims would report crimes and witnesses would be more likely to cooperate with police.

Plus, by reducing the targets for enforcement, greater enforcement resources can go toward combating criminal smuggling gangs and the police corruption that enables them. Not only that, a more relaxed immigration policy would remove human smuggling from the cartels' profit sources, siphoning money they're currently using to purchase grenades, bazookas, semiautomatic rifles and 50 caliber firearms.

When folks like Sue Richardson, a "leader of a Republican club in Irving," complain about the "
drug traffickers and terrorists living illegally in the country," they're conflating two problems that pose very different levels of threat and require different security strategies to combat. The violence and corruption caused by criminal smuggling gangs threatens democratic institutions in ways that people who come here for jobs do not.

At root, immigration is an economic problem that law enforcement strategies can't combat. To maximize safety and target the most serious threats, America must learn to distinguish criminality from mere annoyances, and behave accordingly.

Other recent border-related posts:

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

The immigration "problem" is indeed an economic issue rather than a criminal one. In these times of recession or near recession, the lable "economic problem" isn't the best choice improve immigraiton quotas from Mexico.

The social issues associated with undocumented aliens must be separated from the hot button label "criminal".

We desperately need a realistic program where people from Mexico pay taxes and receive the full benefits of their labor. Quotas that are adequate to meet our needs would go a very long way toward allowing the INS to target their work on the real threats to our way of life.

rage said...

Here's one for your belt Grits--the Chronicle has a story that immigrants are flooding to Texas because the laws in other states are being enforced. So it looks like you'll get all the immigration you want.

http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/front/5509022.html

Gritsforbreakfast said...

A short term dislocation if ever I saw one, rage. The long term trends are all in the other direction.

I keep wondering what you would do? You say "enforce the laws," but where do you lock them up? Who pays for all the judges and lawyers to process them, and how long will they be jailed in the meantime? You've got lots of complaints, but no solutions.

You seem to just think if you harass people enough they'll leave. If black folks didn't up and leave the South during Jim Crow, I don't see why you think legal harassment will work as a tactic now.

OTOH, looking at national elections, I'm beginning to think this issue will put the GOP in a permanent minority position for a generation or two in the Southwest, if such attitudes continue. Like I said, all the trends are headed the opposite way, especially in TX.

rage said...

The trends in immigration are headed the other way, but from what I can tell (and what you admitted in another thread), the opinions are still solidly against illegal immigration and against amnesty. I agree that it hurts Republicans more than Democrats (and that's a good thing), but that's only because immigration is in fact going to continue as is unless we take some pretty radical steps.

So, what are my solutions? Immigration courts. It works for drug offenses, right?

I would make the hearings expedited so that housing time was minimal. It should be pretty easy to prove that they're here legally. First of all, at the place of employment, they should have proper paperwork on file. If not, or if it proves to be false, take them in. It's easy enough to run a check on someone, they do it at every roadside stop for every minor traffic infraction in the country. Recently in Houston ICE raided Waste Management's various sites, and held everyone on site. The ones who could prove their residency quickly went about their business. The rest were checked on the spot. Many were hauled away for deportation proceedings. I agree, the time between arrest and deportation is extraordinarily long, but I think (we're talking 'druthers here anyway) that should be shortened. Houston is very diverse and we have many folks waiting deportation to other countries (notably in today's Chronicle are Vietnamese immigrants), but there could be courts established along the border with Mexico that also minimizes travel to Mexico or the rest of Central America.

And let's not forget that as Oklahoma and Arizona have shown in the article I linked, you won't have to arrest and detain all of them. Many will just leave, and that's one of the basic tenets of what I and many others want. Start enforcing the laws so that those jobs dry up, and they'll leave without having to arrest them.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

rage, drug courts are for long-term probationers. We already have magistrates heading special immigration courts, and their dockets are jam packed, backlogged for months. While they process cases, people sit in detention.

I don't know what to tell you, rage: How you want things just isn't how they are. People have due process rights, even when you don't want them to.

Also, the article said few people went back to Mexico from Arizona and Oklahoma. They didn't "just leave." See the post I just did on that to follow up. best,

Anonymous said...

Due process rights are very important to our way of life and cannot be set aside. Deportation is a serious legal rights issue that should not be expedited.

The idea I support is to go ahead and provide documents to people that want to immigrate. Realistic quotas and an efficient documentation process are a good place to start to solve this problem.

Over time the problems of folks being in the country illegally will work themselves out.

The "underground" economy will be minimized and taxes will be available to provide social services including healthcare and education to everyone.

Remember, if the economy does not have jobs, people will be more likely stay in Mexico, Vietnam or whereever.

Like it or not, Americans must begin to face the fact that we have to compete in a global economy. We can preserve our culture but we cannot preserve our jobs by building a wall.

rage said...

I don't know what to tell you, rage: How you want things just isn't how they are.

You didn't ask me how they are. You asked me what I wanted. Faster deportation proceedings is what I want.

Also, the article said few people went back to Mexico from Arizona and Oklahoma. They didn't "just leave."

Because there are other states that are virtual sanctuaries. Why go back to Mexico, when Texas has one of the largest sanctuary cities in the country with Houston? If all states did this, you can bet they'd leave, or continue to work underground, but eventually they'd get caught too.

Deportation is a serious legal rights issue that should not be expedited.

Why not? They're not citizens, so while we do have a duty not to deny them basic rights, we owe them no increased duty of due process when they are here illegally.

Horace said...

Latin America is generating millions of illiterate and poor every year. Amesties and guest worker programs will only exacerbate illegal immigration as they give a clear signal to migrants of what to expect when their unmanageable numbers cross our borders. Once the guest worker needs are met, nothing will stop further illegal immigration. Anyone who argues that it will is naive or stupid. It will once again becomes a matter of advocacy groups claiming acceptance of more on humanitarian grounds and claims that it is impossible to round millions more. The only solution is deportations by attrition of the current batch and border security. Only an idiot or an advovate would forget what happened after the last amensty of 1986. The amnestied of that event turned out to be the advocates of illegal immigrants of today. The snowball rolls and rolls with the ever increasing political power of Latin Americans.

George said...

rage said: Deportation is a serious legal rights issue that should not be expedited."

There is very little due process with illegal immigration, and it should stay that way. Advocates and immigration lawyers wish to make it very expensive and complicated to expel an illegal alien, mainly to discourage deportations by tieing up the courts. Keeping the crime a misdemeanor causes the onus of legal expense to remain with the illegal immigrant, as it should be. Imagine tens of thousands of illegal immigrants all contesting their deportations at the expense of the citizens. Our tax bills for the payment of lawyers and the expansion of the immigration court system alone would skyrocket, all for people who are manifestly not entitled to be here in the first place. If this should happen, even the extreme elitest left will be calling for fence. Immigration lawyers dream of a day when the liberal democrats expand due process for illegal immigrants.

rage said...

George, couple things for you here.

1. I was quoting someone else.

2. I'm fairly on the record as being anti-illegal immigration.

3. Your Republicans want amnesty. Bush himself tried to force it on Congress, in fact. So shove your partisanship, because both parties want it.

Finally, and this will really blow your mind, I'm a Democrat. Because my party is open to different ideas, whereas yours is not. SO save your Coulteresque vitriol for your neo-con circle jerks.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

rage, I might prefer that the sun rise every morning in the north. If that is my preference I can demand politicians make the promise and be angry when things don't go my way, but the fault for my frustration and anger would be mine, in the end, for desiring something that is incompatible with reality.

Horace, I think we need economic policies to address what we're talking about. Many Mexicans, e.g., came to the US as a direct result of displacement thanks to US corn and Ag subsidies, which I think need to be scrapped. For the cost of all the new "enforcement" that hasn't worked, by any measure, you could do a lot of economic development.

Also, I remember 1986, and have lived here since: Has it really been so bad? Long eras of prosperity, most of those who got amnesty went on to become productive citizens. (And of course, "amnesty" is really just a statute of limitations, which is common and usually 2 years for other nonviolent offenses.) I think this country has been a pretty good place to live since 1986. I don't understand what's the problem, exactly, that "only an idiot" can't see? See the following post and tell me if the economic harms described don't offset any benefit to pursuing the strategy you and rage prefer.

Finally George, due process in immigration is minimal compared to criminal law, but it still exists. We've filled up nearly every private prison bed in the state with immigrant detainees, and even they're running out of space - all because it takes time to deport people, especially when there are complicating factors like US citizen children (again - complaining of "anchor babies" is wishing the sun would rise in the South - people born here are Americans). Deporting millions more would require exponential expansion of immigrant detention and dozens of new judges and courts - that's just the reality. It's not easy to do. best,

el_longhorn said...

Good stuff, Grits. One quibble - I wouldn't call the Zetas a cartel, they are more like thugs for hire that work for a cartel than anything else.

On the Oklahoma and Arizona laws, it is way too soon to be drawing any conclusions. Let this play itself out for six months to a year and we will have a better idea of the effects of those laws.

Anonymous said...

Is Rage really a lawyer?