Monday, July 17, 2006

Arrest more immigrants? What happens then?

As somebody who tries to pay attention to the nuts and bolts of the criminal justice system, I've never understood how the US anti-immigration movement expects their proposed policies to work in the real world.

The pragmatic ramifications of enacting draconian immigration laws
, especially proposals that would make illegal entry to the United States a felony, would cause a stunning increase in court dockets and incarceration rates. If that law were passed and enforced, the number of people locked up in America, which already has the highest incarceration rate on earth, would make Stalinist Russia look like the Land of the Free by comparison.

op-ed in the LA Times by criminal defense attorney Charles Linder shows the scope of the dilemma. By turning workers into criminals, we risk turning our already-overloaded criminal justice system into a bloated, out of control behemoth. The most absurd part is, America can't afford courts, jails, prisons and community supervision services now, so what will happen when all these new Border Patrol agents start making thousands more arrests? Wrote Linder:
U.S. District Judge Robert C. Brack puts it another way: "You can add Border Patrol agents, but if you do, you'd better think [downstream]. You'd better think marshals; you'd better think prosecutors, probation and pretrial services officers, defense lawyers, judges and clerk's staff — all of those things." ...

Congress is reluctant to add to the supply of judges by appointing new ones because more judges mean more courthouses, more offices for federal prosecutors and public defenders, more marshals, more clerks and so on — and that is costly.

Most expensively, more illegal immigrant arrests and convictions mean more prisons and staff to run them. The federal Bureau of Prisons operates 106 facilities and 28 urban correction centers for pretrial detainees. It oversees 185,000 prisoners; its 2006 budget is $4.9 billion.

Consider this worst-case scenario: The immigration legislation passed by the House in December would make illegal presence in this country a felony. If just 1% of the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants were arrested and convicted under the proposed law, the Bureau of Prisons would be overwhelmed. In the last three years, it added more than 11,000 inmate beds. Imprisoning the new felons would require 110,000 more beds. ...

Tough talk on immigration is cheap. But the politicians who engage in it risk collapsing a judiciary system already overburdened with criminal cases. Creating more criminals hardly seems the answer.
Via Bender's Immigration Bulletin


LonewackoDotCom said...

Of course, we could streamline our court system even further by not prosecuting even more crimes.

And, by attempting to deport illegal aliens, we'll encourage many of those here now to self-deport and we'll discourage others from coming here.

By refusing to enforce our laws, we have the opposite effect: we encourage those here now to stay, and we encourage more to come.

And, unless they committed some other crime, I'm pretty sure those arrested would be deported rather than put in U.S. prisons.

But, it doesn't really matter since most everyone agrees that that provision would be stripped from the final bill. And, many think there won't be a final bill.

Perhaps those who support illegal immigration should reach for some other argument.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Actually, if Congress made illegal entry a felony, they'd do prison time before being deported.

Personally I'm not so much in favor of illegal immigration as I support re-legalizing it on the southern border back to pre-1965 levels - i.e., at levels high enough to satisfy US labor demand. Best,

Anonymous said...

The irony about all this is that if it weren't for the issue of illict drugs having taken so much of the law enforcement budget all these years, the proposed crackdown on illegal immigration might have been feasible.

Instead, if any portion of the legislation passes, the financial strain upon an already over-stressed legal system, cracking apart at the seams, will become the last straw. As the various States have learned since 2000, when the economy takes a downturn, the tax base shrinks, and every agency dependent upon it for funding is forced to contract. Decisions as to what gets funded become ever more difficult. This process has continued, despite the rosy predictions of Gub'mint policy makers that the economy is improving. And it shows no sign of stopping.

I want border control as much as anyone; my concerns stem from a strategic and tactical point of view. But using the legal system this way will shatter the piggy bank for good and all. Deficit spending (such as this nation is engaging in on almost every level) can go on only for as long as our foreign creditors will allow it. We are, as a nation, slowly beginning to understand that we can't afford the present form of DrugWar, anymore; how can we possibly afford the ImmigrantWar, too?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Hey, Kaptinemo, good to hear from you. Hadn't seen your name in the comments in a while.

Anonymous said...

Hi, Scott. I've been visiting here as much for the focus on immigration as I have for drug law reform. But I can't claim under any circumstances to be an expert when it comes to immigration reform.

But I do know that, given the level of the National Debt, to add another - expensive - layer of bureaucracy to what we already have will force re-allocation of funding for other policies and agencies. This has already happened in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, with Congress shifting funds from organizations like ONDCP to pay for the New Orleans cleanup.

The only other way to do it is the one I am most afraid the Feds will engage in, and that's runaway inflation of the money supply to 'pay' for such an addition. That's going to hurt everybody. A real knotty problem.

Anonymous said...

As long as there is a reason and benefits for them to come, THEY WILL, REGARDLESS IF IT IS ILLEGAL! To think those who travel from all over South America through all kinds of danger, death and abuse and corruption FOR MONTHS. Will get to our boarders and see a fence and say " They built a wall, we got to go back " is pure BS! With SEREVAL HUNDRED miles of our boarder running through the middle of large lakes, are we going to build a floating wall? What happens when it reaches water at both ends?

The reality of the situation dictates we address the cause, AND NOBODY IS! If they had no reason nor benefits to come for " ILLEGALY " , " THEY WOULDN'T ", PERIOD! Those that want to come legally and work, YOUR WELCOME! Those that come illegally " AND " those who hire illegals get what they deserve! ( WELL NOT NOW, BUT THEY SHOULD ). How is it Mexico is not sharing in the cost, for the problem their people and lack of boarder control are causing? If we sent them the bill " OR " took it out of their aid money think they might start policing their own boarders?

At best it is a mess, at worse we the American people and tax payers will lose more freedoms and pay for a white elephant called a wall! Which in reality will have as many holes in it as the existing " TORILLA CURTAINS " we already have on the boarder!!! GO FIGURE??? As for making it a felony, sounds like those operating the " PEOPLE RANCHES FOR PROFIT " ( JAILS and PRISONS ), are trying to up their profits and we the tax payer get to foot the bill! These illegals break our laws to get here now, you think breaking another one will make any difference???

ADDRESS THE PROBLEM, NOT THE POLITICS! Or is politics the real problem, as with the failure called the war on drugs??????

Rusty White