Immigration Prosecutions Drain Resources

Hopefully, all of us here can agree that the United State’s current policies surrounding prosecuting undocumented immigrants for entering the country, and the ways that those immigrants are treated while in custody, are cruel, inhumane and blatantly racist. But this NY Times article also takes the time to highlight how these prosecutions inevitably take resources away from prosecuting, you know, real crime:

Federal prosecutions of immigration crimes nearly doubled in the last fiscal year, reaching more than 70,000 immigration cases in the 2008 fiscal year, according to federal data compiled by a Syracuse University research group. The emphasis, many federal judges and prosecutors say, has siphoned resources from other crimes, eroded morale among federal lawyers and overloaded the federal court system. Many of those other crimes, including gun trafficking, organized crime and the increasingly violent drug trade, are now routinely referred to state and county officials, who say they often lack the finances or authority to prosecute them effectively.

Bush administration officials say the government’s focus on immigration crimes is an outgrowth of its counterterrorism strategy and vigorous pursuit of immigrants with criminal records.

Immigration prosecutions have steeply risen over the last five years, while white-collar prosecutions have fallen by 18 percent, weapons prosecutions have dropped by 19 percent, organized crime prosecutions are down by 20 percent and public corruption prosecutions have dropped by 14 percent, according to the Syracuse group’s statistics. Drug prosecutions — the enforcement priority of the Reagan, first Bush and Clinton administrations — have declined by 20 percent since 2003.

Well, I guess that at least the drop in drug prosecutions — which frankly, I’m surprised to hear about — is good news. But the drop in prosecutions for white-collar crimes, weapons crimes, organized crime and public corruption? Um, not so good.

There’s lots more interesting stuff in the full article, so I recommend checking it out.  But the gist is this: we’re not only propping up racist policy with the lie that prosecuting men and women (and locking up their children in the process) who were just looking for a way to feed their families is for the safety of the American people.  Us Good, Worthy American Folk who are supposedly being protected?  We’re actually being made less safe as a result.

Good work there, Bush administration.  Good work.


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10 comments for “Immigration Prosecutions Drain Resources

  1. Rob
    January 14, 2009 at 6:23 pm

    I agree with this post. To comment on it, illegal immigrants come to the US often because no one else will fill the dangerous, labour-intensive jobs they take. Since their prospects at these jobs are often better than in their home countries, these jobs will continue to act as a magnet for illegal immigration. Since, according to a White House press briefing these jobs are “demanded” by the economy, I don’t think the prospects of a serious reduction in illegal immigration are very good. If someone is truely dedicated to reducing illegal immigration, perhaps it would be better to improve prospects for people in their home countries.

    In addition, the fact that immigration prosecutions have gone up while weapons, organized crime, etc prosecutions have gone down helps destroy the myth of the GOP being the party of “small government” (perhaps excepting the libertarian faction, wherever that is). Instead, the GOP has simply redistributed government.

  2. January 14, 2009 at 6:34 pm

    Thanks for your comments, Rob, and your overall support for immigrants — but FYI, we prefer to use terms like “undocumented immigrants” around here, not “illegal immigrants.” I know it’s almost automatic to use that phrase, and major news sources do it without thinking twice, but no one is “illegal.” As many before me have argued, whether intentioned or not (and I don’t think yours was intentioned), calling people “illegal immigrants” is ultimately quite dehumanizing.

  3. Rob
    January 14, 2009 at 6:40 pm

    My apologies, Cara. “Undocumented immigrants” from now on.

  4. RonF
    January 15, 2009 at 5:01 pm

    In addition, the fact that immigration prosecutions have gone up while weapons, organized crime, etc prosecutions have gone down helps destroy the myth of the GOP being the party of “small government” (perhaps excepting the libertarian faction, wherever that is). Instead, the GOP has simply redistributed government.

    Actually, redistributing government, as in moving governmental functions from a higher level to a lower one is entirely in accord with the foundational principles of the U.S. The idea was that by following a Federal model (wherein states exist and that both they and the Federal government have limited soverignty) and pushing responsibilities down as much as possible, you end up with the people who perform those functions more responsive to the people that vote for them and are affected by them.

    Hopefully, all of us here can agree that the United State’s current policies surrounding prosecuting undocumented immigrants for entering the country … [are] blatantly racist.

    It’s not clear to me that prosecuting illegal entry into the U.S. is inherently racist, although I’m not pleased with some of what I’ve heard about how they are treated while incarcerated.

    illegal immigrants come to the US often because no one else will fill the dangerous, labour-intensive jobs they take.

    Ah, but it’s important to append here “for what the employers want to pay”. Close the border to illegal aliens and either the jobs’ pay goes up or they go undone. With our current unemployment numbers people will start taking the jobs – or they’re not as essential as Jorge Bush says. Why enable employers to hire people at wages less than the jobs are worth?

    Cara, being a person is not illegal, but having the status of being an alien (the legal term for a non-citizen, it occurs about 1100 times in the U.S. Code) can be. To call people “illegals” carries the sense that you note and is undesirable and demeaning. But when they are called illegal aliens or illegal immigrants the word “illegal” modifies and clarifies the term describing their status and is appropriate. It’s especially appropriate to use the word in conjunction with “immigrants” because numerous people in this debate use the word “immigrant” to conflate people here in the U.S. illegally with, for example, the person who works two cubes down from me that came here 5 years ago and is now a citizen. She’s still an immigrant and always will be, but her rights are far different than someone who crossed the border in violation of the law.

  5. RonF
    January 15, 2009 at 5:04 pm

    I don’t think the prospects of a serious reduction in illegal immigration are very good.

    Sure it is. Remove access to these jobs for people who have no legal right to hold them. If they can’t get jobs they’ll go home. Where I work (network support) you’ll never get a job if you can’t prove you’re a citizen. Why should any other jobs be different?

  6. January 15, 2009 at 5:42 pm

    Yeah RonF, see how my suggestion of “undocumented immigrant” is entirely accurate, creates the distinction you’re looking for, and doesn’t carry the inherently negative connotations with it?

    Oh, and one other thing: you shouldn’t be able to get a job unless you can prove you’re a citizen? Well, my immigrant husband, here entirely legally on a green card, is totally fucked, now isn’t he?

    Maybe that’s not what you meant at all. Maybe what you intended to say, even though I’d still disagree with you, was “citizen, legal resident or person here on a work visa.” But it’s not what you said, and I’m sure as hell not going to argue immigration policy or the terminology surrounding it with someone who can’t get that kind of basic distinction down.

  7. RonF
    January 16, 2009 at 2:17 pm

    You are entirely correct on that last, Cara. I apologize. Of course there are numerous aliens in the U.S. with the right to work in the U.S., including the woman I was referring to prior to her attainment of citizenthip. I wrote in haste and now may repent at leisure.

    Having said that – what’s wrong with a negative connotation? People who have entered the U.S. in an illegal fashion and who have provided a false Social Security number and false information (also illegal) have broken U.S. law. Why shouldn’t that be viewed negatively?

    As far as “undocumented immigrant” goes, first they’re not “undocumented”. You can’t get a legal job without presenting documentation. What they are is falsely documented. Unless their employer is also breaking several U.S. laws, but that’s another problem (that needs to be solved via better enforcement). Secondly, not all people doing this are immigrants. Those who come and stay are, but the term “undocumented immigrant” as used also covers people who come into the U.S. illegally to get a job illegally but do not intend to stay – which is a necessary part of the definition of “immigrant”. There are numerous people who come here to work but leave their families behind and intend to go back. “Undocumented immigrant”, or even just “immigrant” doesn’t fit them. But “Illegal alien” does. “Undocumented immigrant”, “Illegal immigrant”, “undocumented worker” all cover some people who have entered the U.S. illegally but not others. Whereas “illegal alien” fits them all.

    Oh, and to further revisit my terminology, when I said “Close the border to illegal aliens and either the jobs’ pay goes up or they go undone.” I actually had intended to say “close the job market”. If we make it difficult to impossible for illegal aliens to get and keep jobs the ones coming here to work won’t come and those here won’t stay. That makes the job of securing our borders much easier and addresses the concern of allocation of law enforcement resources.

  8. RonF
    January 16, 2009 at 2:18 pm

    Still curious as to how enforcing immigration law is racist. Can you expand on that?

  9. January 17, 2009 at 4:47 pm

    Heckuva job, Bushie!

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