Tuesday, November 18, 2008

ICE ignoring crooks to target immigrant workers

The Houston Chronicle ran a three part series by Susan Carroll this week on immigrants in the local justice system, focusing on the fact that 3/4 of illegal immigrants processed through the Harris County Jail are not flagged for deportation by federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents (see here, here, and here).

I must say, though, it's an odd little series - full of anecdotes but with little system-level analysis other than to admit there's not evidence of a widespread safety problem. In particular, the stories examined no control group so it's impossible to know how immigrants' cases compare with other offenders. Instead we're told that,"There is no conclusive research to show whether illegal immigrants are more likely than their U.S.-born counterparts to abscond on state charges while out on bail." If that's the case, is this really a story?

After all, we know illegal immigrants are much less likely to commit crimes than Americans; it wouldn't surprise me if they're also less likely to abscond or commit new offenses while on bail.

The writer framed the stories in a sensationalistic "hide the women and children" tone, inspiring a Grits reader to email me asking:
Were these people simply released into the community as "free to go", just walk out the door? Such a high number of known criminals left to fend for themselves in a community area is not very smart (imo).
But keep in mind that most people who're prosecuted don't go to prison and continue to "fend for themselves" out in the community, either on bail or on probation after they're convicted. Even for those who're sent to prison, about 99% get out. Plus, nobody thinks most of these folks are a danger - 43% of immigrants processed in the Harris jail were misdemeanor defendants with no prior criminal record, reported the Chronicle.

Deportation is no panacea. After all, even if you deport somebody, it's still pretty easy to get back across the river. It's hard not to forget that capital murderer Juan Quintero was deported after a felony conviction, then came back to the United States and ultimately killed a cop (he's currently serving a sentence of life without parole). Or consider this example from today's story:
Israel Lopez, an illegal immigrant from Mexico, finished a seven-year Texas prison sentence in July 2006 for aggravated sexual assault of a child and was turned over to ICE agents, prison records say. ICE officials confirm he was deported in August 2006. Less than a year later, in June 2007, Lopez was arrested again on suspicion of assaulting a Harris County sheriff's deputy
So while many people see deportation as a fitting punishment when an illegal immigrant commits a crime, in reality it does little to keep the bad guys from returning. Though the third story in the series criticized placing illegal immigrants on probation, in some instances that's a safer bet for the public than shipping somebody back to their home country. When that happens, they can come back any time they like with no probation or oversight.

A big shortcoming of the Chron series is that it failed to place the Harris Jail dilemma in the context of broader immigration policy issues. Bottom line, ICE is so overwhelmed trying to "get tuff" on immigration that all their detention facilities are full of people caught swimming the river or who were snatched up in raids on employers - mostly average workers, in other words.

With this strategy, ICE has soaked up virtually all the private prison capacity in the state (and a big chunk of the federal court docket) with people who, before the recent immigration kerfuffle, would never have been criminally charged. As a result of the Bush Administration's changes in federal charging policies, immigration cases have come to utterly dominate Texas' southern and western federal judicial district dockets.

The irony is that immigrants as a whole commit few crimes by comparison to Americans, so most of the workers taking up space in ICE detention centers aren't actually a threat (plus many would be going home because of the divebombing economy, anyway). However, because ICE detention centers are full, there's not enough room for immigrants identified at the jails who committed serious crimes. It's a classic case of political grandstanding winning out over public safety.

That's why ICE doesn't place more holds on undocumented immigrants in the Harris County Jail - there aren't enough prison beds to hold all the crooks on top of the immigrant workers in custody already.

While there's some interesting information in these stories, to me the series didn't identify some big danger we should fear as much as it supplies an example of grossly misplaced federal priorities. As columnist Lisa Falkenberg wrote, it shows that "immigration officials should spend more time at the Harris County Jail and less raiding Shipley Donuts, rag factories and meat-packing plants." That pretty much sums it up.

UPDATE: See this 11-22 Houston Chronicle editorial pondering ICE's immigration enforcement priorities.


Anonymous said...

ICE are the crooks. And we have already fully explored the crooks who run our county and city jails and our legal system.

The plan is to flood the USA with illegal immigrants, and the plan has succeeded beyond their wildest hopes.

I am supposed to believe that we do not have the ability to enforce our Texas border with Mexico? Not.

All of this is just the creation of the problem phase. They will point us to the only solution - higher and higher police state measures on all U.S. citizens.

When they deport someone, they let them out and tell them to come back to the ICE hearing on a certain date to get their deportation orders. What a joke. Nobody ever comes back.

I used to work hard to try to get Ramos and Campeon released and went to anti-illegal immigration rallies, but I have put all of that on the back burner for now. We have much bigger problems than the flood of illegal aliens being freely allowed into this country.

FAIR and maybe IRCOT too are taking a turn into a very immoral and inhuman direction. Their leaders, Frosty Wooldrige and his ilk, are pushing the horrors of all this "unsustainable overpopulation" , which is nothing but murder, genocide, eugenics and NAZI police state.

Read about Dr. John Tanton and Dr. Garrett Hardin, a University of California biologist who became moderately famous in the 1960's for his essay "The Tragedy of the Commons".

What is happening, as cited in your article, is happening because that is the way it is planned to happen. But you know, if we all take the Real ID card and show our papers to the authorities every time we want to go somewhere, then this phase of the problem will be lovingly solved. Then that will shown to be a big problem and having an implanted chip will be the only real solution.

Illegal aliens or illegal immigrants are not "immigrants" or "migrants" or "workers." They are individuals who for various reasons have decided to break the laws of the U.S.A. and enter illegally. But many of these people necessarily have to break many more of our laws while living and working here illegally.

We do have the ability to enforce our borders effectively. We do have the technology to put out the fires in California. We do have the ability to run our own Texas DPS drivers license and ID programs with no help or new programs needed from Homeland Security. We do have the technology to not only create but also to guide and to dissipate hurricanes.

Anonymous said...

As columnist Lisa Falkenberg wrote, it shows that "immigration officials should spend more time at the Harris County Jail and less raiding Shipley Donuts, rag factories and meat-packing plants." That pretty much sums it up.

I have to agree with the above comment. ICE should spend more time looking at the criminal activity and not just the status crimes. The problem is not just Harris county. TYC has 66 youth identified as Mexican citizens with ICE identifying 7 with detainers. The rest are listed as US residents by TYC inspite of having no real residency status and homes in Mexico.

The Issue then becomes what happens to them. TYC staff are forbidden to call ICE to check on the status. And most are sent home at the end of their MLOS. All of these youth are felons and Discharged without parole and any way to monitor them should they return to the US. With the current situation with the Mexican Cartel, The youth that was just smuggling marijuana may really be dangerous.

Anonymous said...

Despite all the arguments, the state of Oklahoma has the toughest illegal alien laws in the country. And, the state enforces them, and they work. Illegal aliens cannot recieve public assistance, and it is illegal to transport, harbor, or provide housing to illegal immigrants. Public employers and their subcontractors have to register with a Basic Pilot Program to verify the work authorization status of all new employees.

We have a farm in NW Oklahoma, and I can tell you that in the year these new laws have been in effect, the illegal alien problem in the area has almost disappeared.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

dirty, they already can't receive public assistance, anywhere, and OK's law isn't as sweeping as you describe or it wouldn't withstand constitutional muster (see what's happening in Farmers Branch). Oklahoma's decline in the number of immigrants is no greater than Texas' and elsewhere - it's happening because the economy tanked and construction jobs all vanished.

But I guess the Okies can take credit if they want too. After getting whipped by UT this year and with Tech about to roll into town to give them a beating, one supposes they need to feel good about SOMETHING.

Anonymous said...

"But I guess the Okies can take credit if they want too. After getting whipped by UT this year and with Tech about to roll into town to give them a beating, one supposes they need to feel good about SOMETHING."

LOL! :)

Anonymous said...

Grits, re: Texas Tech vs. Oklahoma, I hope you're right, but it might be prudent not to count your whuppins before they're hatched.

Charles Kiker

Anonymous said...

We can sure increase the number of gang members by keeping the borders open. We still have a few neighborhoods that aren't so gang infested. Illegal immigration will sure fix that in a hurry!

Anonymous said...

On 11/19/2008 06:45:00 AM Grits said:

"dirty, they already can't receive public assistance, anywhere, and OK's law isn't as sweeping as you describe or it wouldn't withstand constitutional muster.."

If that's the case, then somebody better inform the hospitals in my area, and the TEA. So far, the only part of OK law that appears to have been put on hold is the part dealing with the employment practices. Maybe the folks in Farmers Branch need to make a call to the OK Atty Generals office. And, it has made quite a difference in the country where our farm is located. The local authorities say the problem is simple to cure. Cut off services, and make it hard to get a place to live, and they will go somewhere else. In that county, they evidently have. I have no doubt that the effect is minimal in the large metropolitan areas so far. But, in that county, I've never seen so many anglo's working on the farms again. Seeing is believing.