While Californians contemplate this week’s Supreme Court 5-4 decision to eventually release 33,000 inmates from state prisons, the question most frequently asked is how did the overcrowding get so acute? As it does with California’s deteriorated K-12 public school system, jammed hospital emergency rooms and bumper-to-bumper highways, unchecked immigration plays a major role.
Although many immigrants come to California to pursue the proverbial “better life,” others arrive with the explicit intent of dealing drugs, robbing banks and joining gangs. Sooner or later, these ne’er-do-wells land in prison. If and when they’re released, some may be deported back to their country of national origin. But that doesn’t mean California has seen the last of them. Reentry is as easy as one, two, three.
A simple question: wouldn’t California’s prisons be under less population pressure if the federal government secured the border and internally enforced immigration laws?
Elected officials rarely admit the connection between more immigration and California’s prison mess. During years of debate about the looming crisis, band aid solutions like outsourcing 10,000 inmates to Arizona, Oklahoma and Mississippi have been tried but a concerted effort with the Department of Homeland Security to seal the border has been not fully explored.
Identifying who is and is not an immigrant prisoner is tough. Many with ethnic surnames are American citizens. Others may be illegal aliens. During a 2010 California Assembly meeting about prisons, Senator Gloria Negrete McLeod, D-Chino, asked how many “foreign nationals” are incarcerated. The Department of Finance representative answered confusingly that 11 percent, approximately 25,000, inmates are undocumented felons but not necessarily “foreign nationals.”
In March, the General Accounting Office issued a report titled Criminal Alien Statistics: Information on Incarcerations, Arrests and Costs. Among its findings were that in fiscal 2010 the aggregate number of foreign nationals in federal prisons stood at 55,000. The GAO also estimated that at least 50 percent had drug related offenses and 40 percent had been convicted of Department of Justice terrorism related charges. The average incarcerated alien had seven arrests and committed an average of 12 offenses. For Californians, these statistics represent grim financial news. In 2009, the latest year available for analysis, California taxpayers spent about $1.1 billion to incarcerate illegal aliens. Broken down, that total includes Los Angeles County, $139 million and Orange County, $88 million.
On a more positive note, the GAO analysis found that ICE removed more criminal aliens for the last three years. The number ordered deported rose from 7,000 in 2007 to 79,000 in 2010.
Returning to my original question: Wouldn’t it be easier if the criminals never got to the United States in the first place?
With President Obama relentlessly lobbying for open borders, tighter security isn’t on the immediate horizon. Nevertheless, some domestic safety measures are within reach.
First, end the Justice Department’s subsidy of sanctuary cities. Each year, the DOJ awards millions of dollars in grants through the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program to cities that have publicly announced that they give safe harbor to illegal aliens. Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego, for example, received nearly $18 million from DOJ despite having municipal policies that encourage criminals to hide out in their cities.
Second, make enrollment in the Secure Communities program that links DOJ and DHS databases mandatory. By allowing an immigration check to be run at booking, Secure Communities flags foreign national criminals and notifies ICE. Amazingly, however, many cities have not signed on, apparently indicating that they prefer keeping alien criminals in their midst.
The long term solution to California prison overcrowding is not releasing or outsourcing felons or building more prisons but tighter borders, more internal enforcement and less political correctness.
Working for logical immigation reform based on a stable population, a recognition of the finite nature of our natural resources and the adverse impact of continued growth on our quality of life, standard of living, national interest, character, language, sovereignty and the rule of law. Pushing back and countering the disloyal elements in American society and the anti-American rhetoric of the leftwing illegal alien lobbies. In a debate, when your opponents turn to name calling, it's a good sign you've already won.