Not ev­ery­one has the right to be in Amer­ica

The Washington Times Weekly - - Editorials -

If the U.S. Supreme Court says Cal­i­for­nia has to cre­ate room in its pris­ons by re­leas­ing con­victs, the least the fed­eral gov­ern­ment can do is send those who are il­le­gal aliens back over the bor­der. The mes­sage is sim­ple: If you come to our coun­try and don’t fol­low the rules, you’re outta here. On May 23, the Supreme Court ruled in the case of “Brown v. Plata” that over­crowd­ing in Cal­i­for­nia pris­ons con­sti­tuted a vi­o­la­tion of the Eight Amend­ment’s ban on cruel and un­usual pun­ish­ment. The court af­firmed the judg­ment of a three-judge fed­eral court that or­dered the Golden State to re­lease up to 46,000 of the state’s 140,000 in­mates. The 5-4 de­ci­sion was strongly con­tested, with dis­sent­ing Jus­tice Sa­muel A. Al­ito warn­ing, “The ma­jor­ity is gam­bling with the safety of the peo­ple of Cal­i­for­nia.”

The state could mit­i­gate the pub­lic dan­ger posed by re­leased prisoners with a lit­tle help from the feds. An es­ti­mated 19,000 of Cal­i­for­nia’s con­victs are il­le­gal aliens, who cost the state ap­prox­i­mately a bil­lion dol­lars a year to in­car­cer­ate. In 2009, then-Gov. Arnold Sch­warzeneg­ger sug­gested de­port­ing il­le­gals as a cost­sav­ing mea­sure. The state ar­gued at the time that “These in­mates are the fed­eral gov­ern­ment’s re­spon­si­bil­ity and Cal­i­for­nia tax­pay­ers shouldn’t be pay­ing the bill.” The fed­eral gov­ern­ment, how­ever, was not as forth­com­ing as it might have been, and the plan didn’t meet its po­ten­tial. Given that the cur­rent choice may be be­tween de­port­ing con­victed il­le­gals or let­ting them roam free, the case for de­por­ta­tion is even stronger.

Il­le­gal aliens are by def­i­ni­tion en­gaged in crim­i­nal ac­tiv­ity — namely be­ing in the United States in vi­o­la­tion of im­mi­gra­tion laws. This point has car­ried lit­tle weight with the Jus­tice Depart­ment, which has frowned on ef­forts at the state level to stem the il­le­gal flood. But those il­le­gals al­ready con­victed of un­re­lated crimes at the state level not only have no right to be in the coun­try but have abused the priv­i­lege of be­ing here. There is no ra­tio­nale for let­ting them re­main longer.

U.S. Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment (ICE) re­ports that un­der the ICE Crim­i­nal Alien Pro­gram (CAP), record num­bers of il­le­gal-alien con­victs are be­ing de­ported, in­clud­ing 195,000 last year alone. The sys­tem is not fool­proof; a Feb. 4 re­port by the in­spec­tor gen­eral for the Depart­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity re­vealed that in 2009, CAP failed to iden­tify 890 crim­i­nal aliens el­i­gi­ble for re­moval in two states, Cal­i­for­nia and Texas. These crim­i­nals were sub­se­quently re­leased into the gen­eral pop­u­la­tion.

More­over, the high num­bers of de­por­ta­tions are still a frac­tion of what is pos­si­ble — the re­port es­ti­mates that “300,000 to 450,000 crim­i­nal aliens who are el­i­gi­ble for re­moval are de­tained each year at fed­eral, state and lo­cal cor­rec­tional fa­cil­i­ties.”

Fo­cus­ing on de­port­ing il­le­gals will help Cal­i­for­nia com­ply with the fed­eral court or­der, will re­duce the num­ber of un­doc­u­mented mi­grants in the coun­try, keep the streets safe and help close Cal­i­for­nia’s ru­inous bud­get gap.

Al­though this ex­pe­di­ent has been forced by cir­cum­stances, it could serve as a model for other states with large il­le­gal-im­mi­grant prison pop­u­la­tions to re­duce prison crowd­ing and save money. That is as­sum­ing the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion won’t let pol­i­tics get in the way.

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