For an organization that generally supports draconian positions on immigration, though, I was surprised to see NCPA advocating that immigrants convicted of crimes in the United States should receive more lenient sentences compared to citizen offenders. The next time you hear someone complain about "special rights" for illegal immigrants, you might point out this little tidbit. Here's the text of NCPA's email:
NATIONAL CENTER FOR POLICY ANALYSISSomeone explain to me why immigrant offenders should be treated more leniently than US citizens committing the same crimes? I've complained when immigrants are singled out for worse treatment in the process, but for the same reasons (you know, that pesky 14th Amendment requiring equal protection under the law), US citizens shouldn't receive longer sentences just because of where they're born.
DAILY POLICY DIGEST
Friday, March 28, 2008
DEPORTING SOME IMMIGRANT INMATES A BIG BREAK FOR STATES
Programs in New York and Arizona aimed at cutting the prison sentences of certain immigrant inmates so they can be deported faster have federal officials urging other states to adopt similar policies.
o Officials in the two states say they have saved millions by turning over for early deportation some non-violent immigrant criminals who have served at least half of their sentences.
o Eligible inmates include both legal immigrants who committed certain crimes and illegal immigrants.
o U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials say the federal government also saves money when immigrant inmates get sent home early, and hopes to expand the program in the next few months.
"This program does not apply to your rapists, your murderers, your serious criminals," says Julie Myers, homeland security assistant secretary for ICE.
Myers says it costs an average of $95 a day for the federal government to detain and house illegal immigrants before deportation. The accelerated deportation policy "reduces the amount of time aliens are in our custody," she says. "It reduces the amount of time our lawyers have to spend prosecuting cases in immigration court."
ICE has been targeting illegal immigrants with criminal convictions and the related costs are growing. Last year, 164,000 immigrant criminals were placed into deportation proceedings, up from 64,000 in 2006, says Myers.
o New York's program began in 1995, says Erik Kriss, spokesman for New York State Department of Correctional Services; through December, nearly 2,000 inmates had been deported under the program for a savings of $141 million.
o Since December 2005, 1,300 Arizona inmates have been turned over to ICE for deportation under the policy, says Nolberto Machiche, spokesman for the state Department of Corrections; the state has saved more than $17 million as a result because it no longer has to house the criminals, he says.
Source: Emily Bazar, "Deporting some immigrant inmates a big break for states," USA Today, March 28, 2008.
Only economics and pragmatism in the face of full prisons, not any justice interest, is driving these programs. Many people who are deported simply return to the United States at their first opportunity, so it's folly to think that a criminal deported back to Mexico will forever stay there.
There exist legitimate reasons to rethink incarceration policy, but when we do, everyone should be treated equally and fairly, regardless of where they were born. If prison officials have identified categories of offenders who they believe won't pose a major public safety risk if they're released, they should be shortening sentences for every offender, including US citizens, not just giving undocumented immigrants a break.