Prague Twin

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Immigration and Criminality

As I have already confessed, I spent several years in the Czech Republic as an illegal alien. In that post, I describe the process of getting legal status and I give my opinion about what should be done in the states to combat the problem. I wouldn't exactly call myself an authority on the subject, but at least I have been through it. I know what it is like to hear "Kontrola! (inspection)" and have to ditch my cooks apron, slip out into the front, and try to look like a customer. I know what it is like to get sick and not really know what to do. "Will I die before I can see a doctor?", I thought once.

One of the things we (there were plenty of us illegals in those days; they called us "jet-backs") understood clearly was that we had to live reasonably within the limits of the law. The Czech authorities were pretty tolerant of illegals, so long as you didn't break the law, and showed them some respect. My friend Jenny got deported just for being too obvious. With her pink hair and leather jacket, she was easily recognized. She was given a warning that she ought to get her papers in order. A year later, the same policemen arrested her and deported her for no other reason than not having valid papers.

Jenny's story is unusual. Gabby's story was much more common. She sold a gram of weed (thats 1/28 of an ounce) to another American, who got caught with it and snitched her out. She spent 3 months in jail before she was deported. What is interesting is that the American they caught received no punishment whatsoever. Now I am finally getting to the point of this post.

I just read a very interesting article regarding the problem of illegal aliens who are criminals. The main point of the article is that police officers in many municipalities are actually prohibited from inquiring as to a person's immigration status until they have been caught committing a felony.

Cops and prosecutors universally know the immigration status of these non-gang “Hollywood dealers,” as the city attorney calls them, but the gang injunction is assiduously silent on the matter. And if a Hollywood officer were to arrest an illegal dealer (known on the street as a “border brother”) for his immigration status, or even notify the Immigration and Naturalization Service (since early 2003, absorbed into the new Department of Homeland Security), he would face severe discipline for violating Special Order 40, the city’s sanctuary policy.

The only real reason I have heard from people who support this policy is that police can get the cooperation of illegals without the illegals fearing deportation. I find this logic completely faulty. If you take the example of my friend who was deported for selling weed, it was exactly the threat of being deported that forced her customer to cooperate.

I think what happens in America (which doesn't happen as much here in the Czech Republic) is that once a law is made, it is enforced every time that an officer observes it being violated. Sure, there are exceptions, but suffice to say, no one in the Czech Republic gets a speeding ticket for doing 66 in a 65 zone. The police tend to use their discretion, and actually use the law selectively to their advantage. Here is an example...

At the local train station, there are plenty of undesirables running all kinds of scams. It is difficult to catch these guys in the act, but you definately know the type who is up to no good. So the police see these guys and ask for papers. They use the immigration law to jail and deport these guys who come just to steal. Some would call this discrimination, and it is. But I have seen this in action, and they guys they pick out are guys they see at the train station every day. Any sane person knows very well they are up to no good, kind of like these guys mentioned in the article.

Enforcing known immigration violations, such as reentry following deportation, against known felons, would be even more productive. LAPD officers recognize illegal deported gang members all the time—flashing gang signs at court hearings for rival gangbangers, hanging out on the corner, or casing a target.

Now in the Czech Republic these guys would be questioned, asked for papers, and searched. Nothing could be more just. But what happens in Los Angeles?

“But if I see a deportee from the Mara Salvatrucha [Salvadoran prison] gang crossing the street, I know I can’t touch him,” laments a Los Angeles gang officer. Only if the deported felon has given the officer some other reason to stop him, such as an observed narcotics sale, can the cop accost him—but not for the immigration felony.

There is a huge problem with immigration in the United States. There is a huge problem with criminality. I suggest that a good place to start to address these problems is where they overlap. Not only would thousands of dangerous criminals be taken off the streets, but a modicum of respectability would be returned to the hard working immigrants whose only crime is not having their papers in order.

It is not logical to assume that if this "Special Order 40" were recinded that the police would immediately start picking up day workers on the street corners and deporting them. They have neither the man power nor the motivation to do so. Instead, I believe that the police would welcome the opportunity to use immigration law to jail and/or deport gang-members and other undesirables. The trick is to encourage discretion.

I suppose the fear is that a racist, robotic officer, given the opportunity, would start rounding up every illegal alien he can get his hands on. No offense to all the good policemen out there (most of them I think), but this is a legitimate concern. There are certain people who just see everything in black and white (or brown and white as the case may be) and don't understand discretion. It is so ironic that the culture of no-tolerence that is flourishing in the United States has led in part to tolerance for all illegal aliens, including hardened criminals. The fear that police will abuse their power is at least partially responsible for this ridiculous special order.

Reading the article, you get the sense that it comes from a right-wing perspective. Usually, opinion pieces that focus on law-enforcement (and advocate greater power for same) come from the right of the political spectrum. As such, you would expect them to advocate that a wall be built along the border. This is not the case. Instead they choose to focus on starving the beast.

The only way to dampen illegal immigration and its attendant train of criminals and terrorists—short of an economic revolution in the sending countries or an impregnably militarized border—is to remove the jobs magnet. As long as migrants know they can easily get work, they will find ways to evade border controls. But enforcing laws against illegal labor is among government’s lowest priorities. In 2001, only 124 agents nationwide were trying to find and prosecute the hundreds of thousands of employers and millions of illegal aliens who violate the employment laws, the Associated Press reports.

The author agrees with me. Enforce the laws that are on the books. Increase the penalties for employers who hire illegals (this has worked brilliantly here in the Czech Republic). With the internet, a system for verifying someone's legal status without infringing on the privacy of others could be easily worked out. That way, an employer would have no excuse for hiring an illegal alien.

But if police do not have the power to deport the street criminals, enforcement of the labor laws will only exasperate the criminal problem as more illegal aliens will turn to crime. As with most problems, the solution must be multi-faceted. It is not enought to just build a wall, or enforce existing laws. There must be a bold, multi-pronged approach.

I'm sure our law-makers are more than up to the task.

Ok, seriously, stop laughing!


  • Spoken like a true conservative! (except for the border thing) As someone who lives in what used to be "Eastern Europe" you should be all to aware of how well walls work in spite of whatever magnet lies on the other side of them. Internal enforcement of immigration laws in America fluctuate depending on the agendas of who’s in office at the time. Laws can be easily ignored by creating other laws that require us to "look the other way" like Special Order 40. A wall however is somewhat permanent and far more likely to stay in place regardless of who’s in control internally. You must see the logic and acknowledge the history, No?

    By Anonymous Arch Stanton, at 3:42 PM  

  • You know, I guess if you really take the immigration issue seriously, you have to consider a fence.

    I'll admit it.

    But the truth is, economically, the states is in a really bad place. This cheap labor keeps the economy afloat. If you take it away, the minimum wage will have to come down, pure and simple, otherwise, you will have rapid inflation.

    Just like slavery, the industrial giant finds itself with a wolf by the ears.

    And it is starting to wriggle loose.

    By Blogger Praguetwin, at 10:22 PM  

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