The Criminal Alien Constituency

By W.D. Reasoner, March 18, 2011

I've been thinking about alien criminals. Specifically, I've been pondering with dismay a disturbing trend: it seems that they've begun to develop a constituency in this country. When and how did that start?

Although I don't remember falling asleep, I'm concerned that I may have had a Rip Van Winkle moment and awakened to a dystopic version of America in which personal responsibility no longer counts for anything, and the notion of consequences for bad acts doesn't apply.

Consider this statement from the "Toolkit for Action" distributed by The New York State Working Group Against Deportation, reported by Jessica Vaughan: "We should NOT say it is OK to deport ‘dangerous or violent criminals'…"

Why in the world is it not OK to say that, I ask?

Or how about this May 4, 2010, New York Times editorial, under the ironic tag line, "A Reminder About American Values":

Gov. David Paterson of New York made a brave – and startling – move on Monday to create a board to consider pardons for immigrant New Yorkers who are on a fast-track to deportation because of old or minor criminal convictions. He said he wanted to inject fairness into an "embarrassingly and wrongly inflexible" system.

Let's put aside for a moment the egregious inconsistency of the Times, which in an editorial only days before had lambasted the state of Arizona for meddling with federal prerogatives and urged President Obama to "take back immigration policy [and] make it clear that the nation's immigration policy cannot be left to a ragged patchwork of state and local laws", and try instead to keep our focus on the issue of alien criminals.

I suspect that the victims of those "old or minor crimes" might feel considerably different than the now-ex-governor about letting aliens escape the consequences of their crimes through vicarious pardons aimed more at subverting the deportation process than at rehabilitation. Anyone care to say to a woman who's been pushed down and had an arm or a hip broken while having her purse snatched – only to see the criminal plea bargain down to a misdemeanor rather than go to jail for the injurious assault – that he shouldn't be removed when the criminal justice system's through with him?

The phrase "minor crime" has little meaning or context in today's American jurisprudence system. Some observers estimate that plea bargains may take place in 90 to 95 percent of all cases in which a defendant is charged. Observers also gauge that significant percentages of felons are not even arrested or charged, for a host of reasons. With those salient facts in mind, why shouldn't "minor" crimes result in removal?

What is more, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, in the 75 largest counties in the U.S. in 2006 (the most recent study it has funded – and there is little reason to believe that the statistics have changed for the better), more than three-fourths of felony defendants had a prior arrest history, with 69 percent having multiple prior arrests.

At least where aliens are concerned, why should the community sit around and wait for budding recidivists to come into full bloom? That is, after all, why the law provides for removal for various crimes.