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Over-criminalizing undocumented immigrants proves to be no solution

LatinaLista — The Pew Hispanic Center released a new report revealing that Hispanics now comprise 40 percent of all sentenced federal offenders in the country. This staggering percentage comes as a result of the government’s frustration in controlling illegal immigration. Yet, the consequences of criminalizing a people for only coming to find work opportunities creates a far more insecure situation within our federal prison system, along with, our national security.
Looking back on the congressional grilling of auto industry executives and Wall Street CEOS, I’m struck at the irony of those sessions.
Here we had members of Congress waving their fingers at these leaders of industry and chastising them for not having the foresight to see the meltdowns occurring in their businesses. Yet, these same Congressional representatives have themselves failed to exercise the same kind of vision necessary to avert or minimize a meltdown of our federal prison system.
I’m referring to the findings of the Pew Hispanic Center’s recently released study, “A Rising Share: Hispanics and Federal Crime.” Researchers discovered that between 1991 and 2007, the number of Hispanics sentenced in federal courts “nearly quadrupled (270%)” making Latinos the “single largest racial and ethnic group among sentenced federal offenders.”
How did this happen?
Well, federal officials had long grumbled about the ineffectiveness of what was known as the “catch-and-release” policy regarding immigration enforcement. Undocumented immigrants who had been caught were routinely released because there was not sufficient space to hold them until their court date for deportation proceedings.
By the time the practice ended in October 2006, the Department of Homeland Security had committed to creating more detention centers and fugitive operations teams to hunt down those undocumented immigrants who never showed up for their deportation hearings and prosecute them.
The Pew study found that 72 percent of the Latinos sentenced in federal courts in 2007 were not legal U.S. citizens and 48 percent of the cases against all Latinos in federal court were for immigration offenses.
In fact, more Latinos were sentenced in federal court for immigration violations than drug or other offenses. These same non-citizen, Hispanic immigration violators were also more likely to serve a prison sentence than those Latinos who were citizens.
One has to wonder why the federal government would go to the trouble and expense of criminalizing people whose only crime was wanting to make a life in the country. One possible reason is that criminalizing undocumented immigrants makes their legal re-entry a lot more difficult, if not downright impossible.
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  • Horace
    February 23, 2009 at 5:08 pm

    “Well, federal officials had long grumbled about the ineffectiveness of what was known as the “catch-and-release” policy regarding immigration enforcement.”
    Just as charging a dollar for excessive speeding would be scoffed at, catch and release meant nothing to the illegal alien. It was a ludicrous practice that was justifiably done away with. The people in question had no honor. Their word that they would show up for their hearing meant nothing to them. Weak punishment only breeds contempt for the will of the American people, as embodied in their laws. Illegal immigrants criminalize themselves after the fashion of common criminals who steal. They steal something that does not belong to them, and something that their own homelands mete out punishment for, the right to enter this country without consideration for the wishes of the citizen. Illegal aliens are hypocrites, as they do unto others in their homeland that which they object to have done to them; be deported.

  • Sandra
    February 24, 2009 at 8:04 am

    Oh please, it should be a very serious offense to enter our country illegally regardless of one’s intentions. It is a matter of national security, the soveirgnty of our nation’s borders and curbing population growth that will be devestating to our country in the long run.

  • Lea Ortiz
    February 25, 2009 at 9:26 am

    Exactly right Sandra. Houston has illegals from more than just Mexico. It is common to come into Mexico from another country to cross the Rio Grande River. Houston is a well known hub of illegal human trafficking. It would not be hard for Al Quaeda members to do it. It would be even easier since money is no object.
    The nation needs to crack down on the border as Arizona has done, OR open the gates and become a huge nation with more poverty depleting our reservoirs of aid. While we are at it lets take up their form of anarchic government, where the rule of law is bribery. Winning the war on America and bringing it down. Is not that the goal?

  • Dave
    March 2, 2009 at 11:03 am

    “Illegal aliens are hypocrites, as they do unto others in their homeland that which they object to have done to them; be deported.”
    Huh? You mean to say they’re deporting themselves?
    All the rhetoric about undocumented aliens as criminals, potential terrorists and the like doesn’t do much to solve the problem. Nor does holding these people in prison, nor does building higher walls.
    There is a historic precedent of “illegal” immigration” that hardly bothered anyone in the past. Certainly the world has changed but people will do what they feel they have to to improve their lot, especially if it means survival. Working to benefit as many people as possible by enabling legal passage and employment as well as improving international economic policy can at least improve lives more than prison time,wall-building and demonizing illegal immigrants.

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