Monday, June 08, 2009

Toward a crime-focused immigration policy

Over at Threats Watch, Jay Fraser considers it an "interesting policy contradiction" to find that Texas will begin screening prison inmates' fingerprints to identify and deport illegal immigrants who commit serious crimes, while "The City of Oakland plans to issue photo-ID cards to illegals to enable them to ease their "access to services, improve their civic participation and encourage them to report crimes" (emphasis in original).

From a pure public safety perspective, though, I see both policies as complementary, not contradictory. It's not realistic and would be too disruptive to the fabric of society to deport the estimated 12 million foreigners who don't have proper documentation, but it's a perfectly manageable (and justifiable) task to send home the ones who commit serious crimes. (Illegal immigrants commit crimes at much lower rates than citizens, but when it happens this is an appropriate response.)

Meanwhile, especially in places like California and Texas where the population of illegal immigrants is particularly large, it 's a serious detriment to public safety if a big chunk of the public won't cooperate with police and cannot participate in many facets of legitimate public life because they lack an ID. It also increases the likelihood they'll engage in identity theft in order to gain documentation.

Personally I think immigrants regardless of status should be able to get drivers' licenses, which would have the added benefit of significantly reducing the number of uninsured drivers on the road by eliminating the biggest barrier to getting auto insurance.

So if you support better crime reporting by victims, reduced identity theft, and (in the case of a drivers license) reducing the number of uninsured drivers on the road, it makes perfect public safety sense to let undocumented immigrants get an ID without too much hassle.

You'd think a blog named "Threats Watch" could identify the common thread. Both policies are aimed at reducing threats to the public and reducing crime, which IMO are laudable and non-contradictory goals.

RELATED: Obama's DOJ may refocus on prosecuting crime instead of immigration.


dirty harry said...

"(Illegal immigrants commit crimes at much lower rates than citizens, but when it happens this is an appropriate response.)"

Just a comment on this, but it isn't that they commit fewer crimes per capita, but they are caught at a lower rate per capita. The reason being, that if you are an illegal alien, there is no paper trail on you in this country. You are invisible. You have no documented identity. Fewer people know you and of your existence. In short, that doesn't mean illegal aliens commit fewer crimes. It just means they are much harder to catch and bring to justice. The two most hienous crimes I ever witnessed were commited by illegal aliens. Thank God they were ones who got caught.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Well, Dirty, wouldn't providing easy access to legal documentation prevent a lot of that? It's a pretty big incentive to get a driver's license, e.g., to have a bank account, a street-legal car, etc., to avoid having to go through all that. And then at least the state would have basic name address, DOB, thumbprint, and a picture on most adults SOMEWHERE. If what you're saying is true, doesn't that make more sense?

Anonymous said...

Hey Dirty, IT'S A TRAP!

Also, most people are either 100% for or 100% against immigration solutions/problems, regardless of the consequences. This is no exception, so it's no real surprise that this blogger couldn't connect the dots on two complimentary policies.

Anonymous said...

When did being in this country illegally stop being a crime?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

It never has been. It's a civil infraction.

Anonymous said...

"it's a perfectly manageable (and justifiable) task to send home the ones who commit serious crimes."

While I agree in general with this sentiment, there are a not-insignificant number of cases where deportation of felons would seem an injustice to any but the most strident foes of immigration. There are many illegal immigrants in this country that were brought here as young children. They are no more familiar with their home countries than any other life-long U.S. citizen. In many cases they don't even have fluency in the language of their home country, having attended U.S. schools and spoken English at home. Some of them are legal residents up to the time they are convicted of a felony offense. Yet, they are deported just the same. There is no provision in the law for those convicted of certain aggravated felonies to escape deportation, regardless of their circumstances. Immigration laws need to be modified to address these cases.

TxBluesMan said...


Improper Entry by a Alien is a violation of 12 U.S.C. 1325, is a criminal, not a civil offense, and may be punished by up to 6 months imprisonment for the first offense and up to 2 years for subsequent offenses.

The crime of Reentry of Removed Aliens is more severe (12 U.S.C. 1326), with penalties of up to 20 years imprisonment.

There are civil violations, but the U.S. Code clearly states that those are in addition to any criminal penalties.

This is not new law, going back over 50 years. It may not be widely enforced, but it is still in fact a crime to enter the United States illegally.

dirty harry said...

Grits said:
"Well, Dirty, wouldn't providing easy access to legal documentation prevent a lot of that? It's a pretty big incentive to get a driver's license, e.g., to have a bank account, a street-legal car, etc., to avoid having to go through all that. And then at least the state would have basic name address, DOB, thumbprint, and a picture on most adults SOMEWHERE. If what you're saying is true, doesn't that make more sense?"

It might make sense if you really believed they would use their real identity, SS number, DL number, and name to obtain all these documents. Sorry, but that has not been my observation. Stolen an fake American DLs are 25 dollars across the border. And, most illegals driving have one in their pocket. My neighbor used to run a large landscaping business, and hire dozens of illegals. It was not unusual for them to all have the same SS#. They don't care about complying with the law. They are here illegally to begin with. They also know there is a groundswell of Americans who are tired of them being here, and are tired of them taxing the system. They aren't about to do anything that will make the government easy to find them if the government decides to start rounding them up and sending them back.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

To TxBluesman, "Improper entry" is the act of crossing the border illegally in the first place. It's a misdemeanor on the first offense. Except about half of "illegal immigrants" didn't commit that crime, ever, because they entered legally and overstayed their visas. BEING here is a civil violation.

Dirty, I don't share your pessimism so long as the ID given out didn't identify immigrants in a way that encouraged them to be singled out and targeted. You're claiming, basically, that since right now we won't LET them get a a legit ID, given the opportunity they would not do so. That's likely false and certainly based on nothing but prejudice. The thumbprint and photo seem to be a good start at solving the problems you CLAIM trouble you, but in reality you and many others don't really want a solution. Then you'd have nothing to complain about.

Anonymous said...

We do want a solution. We want the people that are here illegally to be deported. We want them to quit stealing identities, using social services, and clogging up hospital emergency rooms to get free treatment on US taxpayers' dime. We want to quit having our taxes raised to pay for ESL teachers in our schools. In Houston, we would especially like them to quit assassinating our police officers and quit engaging in running gun battles on major freeways and in neighborhoods as they fight over the people they smuggled in. What in the world makes you think that if they have a driver's license that they are going to get insurance? They aren't interested in spending money for insurance. Its nothing to them if they run into someone without insurance. They don't get arrested for it, so no big deal. They just go buy another junk car. You may be reading statistics and studies about illegals, but I deal with them directly every day, and they simply don't care about obeying our laws. They care about what they can get out of us. They need to be gone.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Gee, 1:15, you deal directly with 12 million people? That must be exhausting. What comprehensive knowledge it must have given you! That and your native american heritage, I'm sure, since clearly nobody in YOUR family emigrated from anywhere else. (/sarcasm)

The solution to your complaints, of course, is to legalize their presence and let them pay taxes, etc., like everybody else. Telling someone "You can't get a drivers license" then complaining because they don't have insurance, for example, is simply a self serving, two-faced position. Maybe some just don't want to follow the rules, but many would if given a chance. I could give you plenty of individual examples that belie your stereotypes, though I don't claim direct, personal knowledge about ALL immigrants, as you do.

You may "want" 12 million people deported, but that's not happening anymore than the sun will rise in the south this morning. For the same reason Ronald Reagan wouldn't do it. As my father likes to say, if wishes were horses, beggars would ride. So why not look to solve the problems we CAN do something about instead of whining anonymously about what you can't change?

Anonymous said...

I was brought here when I was a baby. Now I am 24 years old. I've been trying to fix my legal status for 8 years now. My older sister was born here so she's the one that petitioned me. Everyone thinks it's SO easy to get your documents in order. From sibling to sibling the wait if from 12 to 14 years. I still don't know anyone who LIKES driving without a license or insurance.Trust me if all the hard working could have all their documentation in order and get paid the right wages and be treated fair at work they would. If I were deported I wouldn't know what to do in my country or where to go, I don't even have any family there! Grits, thanks for your excellent comments. I hate when people love to complain but never bring up solutions to solve the problem. We need an immigration reform. As for the people commiting crimes; legal or illegal they need to pay the price!

Anonymous said...

Punishing people who came to this country illegally because we ALLOWED them to do it is insane. I am not a fan of open borders but I am not stupid enough to think we can or should deport 12 million people.

We allowed it to happen, we need to fix it. Sending folks back home is not the answer.

Hook Em Horns said...

Gritsforbreakfast said...

BEING here is a civil violation.

Damn Grits, dont give the morons in the Texas legislature any ideas or they will criminalize it like they have everything else!

Anonymous said...

FYI, my family did come frome somewhere else, and they came here legally. They became citizens and never used welfare or demanded free health care. They never used fake social security cards. aThey learned to speak English and made sure that their kids spoke English and concentrated on their education. They never drove without insurance and they never broke the law. My wife and I went through months of stress and spent thousands of dollars to get her here legally. She came here legally snd followed the rules and procedures and is now a citizen. Perhaps she was just an idiot for obeying the law? We were just stupid to spend all that money complying with the law of the land? So I have no problem with immigrants: I am married to one. I have a huge problem with people that bypass the line that my wife went through, come here illegally and work illegally and use fake social security cards (you try that sometime and see what happens to you) and suck up tax dollars. The key here is the word ILLEGAL. They are breaking the law. Your use of sarcasm about my "native american" heritage is a good example of the liberal knee jerk reaction that anyone who is against illegal immigration is against immigration. I'll be sure to let my wife know.

Lindsay Beyerstein said...

If the system weren't such huge, expensive, arbitrary ordeal to navigate, more people would follow the rules.

This gets to the heart of the immigration bitchfest--it's not a debate when some participants are floating the idea of deporting 12 million people, they might as well be proposing a time machine to take those 12 million folks back to a time before they came into the U.S..

People like this have no interest in solutions because they're not really upset about the practical problems they they're ostensibly complaining about.

For them, it's about finding someone to look down on and resent and blame for their problems.

dirty harry said...

Simply put, if you stop giving them jobs and free services, they would leave in droves. They have been leaving in droves from Oklahoma for two years now.

Anonymous said...


Under Title 8 Section 1325 of the U.S. Code, "Improper Entry by Alien," any citizen of any country other than the United States who:

Enters or attempts to enter the United States at any time or place other than as designated by immigration officers; or
Eludes examination or inspection by immigration officers; or
Attempts to enter or obtains entry to the United States by a willfully false or misleading representation or the willful concealment of a material fact;
has committed a federal crime.

Violations are punishable by criminal fines and imprisonment for up to six months. Repeat offenses can bring up to two years in prison. Additional civil fines may be imposed at the discretion of immigration judges, but civil fines do not negate the criminal sanctions or nature of the offense.