I have a proposal which I hope the Obama administration will consider and implement.
Immediately or as soon as possible the United States should deport all illegal aliens who are now in our federal and state prisons, and in our municipal jails, to their countries of origin. In 2005, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a report on the number of illegal aliens incarcerated in the United States. The report stated, “They were arrested for a total of about 700,000 criminal offenses, averaging about 13 offenses per illegal alien. One arrest incident may include multiple offenses, a fact that explains why there are nearly one and half times more offenses than arrests. Almost all of these illegal aliens were arrested for more than 1 offense. Slightly more than half of the 55,322 illegal aliens had between 2 and 10 offenses. About 45 percent of all offenses were drug or immigration offenses. About 15 percent were property-related offenses such as burglary, larceny-theft, motor vehicle theft and property damage. About 12 percent were for violent offenses such as murder, robbery, assault, and sex-related crimes. The balance was for such other offenses as traffic violations, including driving under the influence; fraud – including forgery and counterfeiting; weapons violations; and obstruction of justice. Eighty percent of all arrests occurred in three states – California, Texas and Arizona. Specifically, about 58 percent of all arrests occurred in California, 14 percent in Texas, and 8 percent in Arizona.”
The GAO reported that the number of convicted criminal aliens incarcerated in federal prison on December 27, 2003 was 46,063 and the number incarcerated in state prisons and local jails was 262,105.
According to the Colorado Alliance for Immigration Reform, “Today, criminal aliens account for about 30 percent of the inmates in federal prisons and 15-25 percent in many local jails. Incarceration costs to the taxpayers were estimated by the Justice Department in 2002 to be $891 million for federal prison inmates and $624 million for inmates in state prisons [annually].” Every year, about 600,000 of those incarcerated, not limited to illegal aliens, are released and within three years, two-thirds become recidivists and are back in prison.
My proposal would make many of these people the problems of their countries of origin. Those countries would be given the authority to put whomever was turned over to them back in prison or fine them or place them on probation or otherwise free them. Since many of these people are drug offenders, and Mexico and several other Latin American countries have changed their laws and decriminalized the personal use and possession of hard drugs like cocaine and heroin, many of those turned over to them who received harsh Rockefeller drug laws sentences of four to 16 years may qualify in Mexico and elsewhere for instant release. Why should we care? In the Netherlands, they legally sell marijuana in coffee shops. Each country today makes its own rules, irrespective of international treaties governing the issue. Our approach to controlling drug use is certainly not a phenomenal success that would allow us to lecture the rest of the world on how to control substance abuse.
Of course, a determination would have to be made on not releasing those who were convicted of acts of terror against the United States, who remain a danger to us. Even there we have released to friendly countries those we considered terrorists and seen them released in their own country, rather than serving out their prison terms in their country of origin. Of course, there would need to be special U.S. courts provided where applications could be heard from those believing that they should not be expelled because of special circumstances and mitigating factors such as family, particularly American-born children and American spouses in the U.S. There should be provision for hearings and right of appeal to a federal circuit court. I suggest the rules of evidence be softened so as to allow hearsay evidence to make it easier for the individual being expelled to their own country to make their case for the application of compassion or simply to correct facts.
If it is possible to do this by administrative action and as quickly as possible, I would hope President Obama would take that course. If it is not solely within his power, then the President should ask the Congress to provide him with the powers needed.
The State of California has been ordered by a federal circuit court to reduce its prison population by 40,000 inmates within two years. If it does not, California may face the situation when it will be forbidden by federal court order from imprisoning any new persons until it has reduced its prison population by that number. We know that California has just seen a prison riot which injured hundreds of inmates – mostly by the acts of other inmates – and attributed by many commentators to overcrowding and racism exhibited by the inmates towards one another. If the Congress cannot by law place the state prison systems into this program, then allow states the option of participating.
Perhaps there are states who will not want to participate and would prefer keeping the illegal aliens in their state prisons and jails, ultimately to be freed and allowed to return to society, but I doubt it. I don’t expect to see those who believe in the concept of open borders join me in supporting this proposal. Those who believe that illegal aliens are simply migrants with the right to come and go across borders as they choose and those who are opposed to our building a security fence on our borders to help control those borders and those who believe the Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano is currently too harsh in arresting illegal aliens in their workplaces, will oppose those proposals as well.
Nevertheless, I believe the proposal is reasonable and practical. Why didn’t people think of it a long time ago? They probably did and the country wasn’t ready for it. Today, we are.
The Honorable Edward Irving Koch served New York City as its 105th Mayor from 1978 to 1989.