Tuesday, May 19, 2009

It's No Fun Being a "Criminal Alien"

With apologies to a very old satirical Genesis song, this story caught my eye regarding ICE, immigration and local jails, a big topic in 3150 every semester.

U.S. to Check Immigration Status in all Local Jails:

The Obama administration is expanding a program initiated by President George W. Bush aimed at checking the immigration status of virtually every person booked into local jails. In four years, the measure could result in a tenfold increase in illegal immigrants who have been convicted of crimes and identified for deportation, current and former U.S. officials said.

By matching inmates' fingerprints to federal immigration databases, authorities hope to pinpoint deportable illegal immigrants before they are released from custody. Inmates in federal and state prisons already are screened. But authorities generally lack the time and staff to do the same at local jails, which house up to twice as many illegal immigrants at any time and where inmates come and go more quickly.

Under the new program, the immigration checks will be automatic: Fingerprints currently being run through the FBI's criminal history database also will be matched against immigration databases maintained by the Department of Homeland Security. The effort would not catch people who have never been fingerprinted by U.S. authorities.

Based on the pilot program, the agency estimates that if fingerprints from all 14 million bookings in local jails each year were screened, about 1.4 million "criminal aliens" would be found, Venturella said. That would be about 10 times the 117,000 criminal illegal immigrants ICE deported last year. There are more than 3,100 local jails nationwide, compared with about 1,200 federal and state prisons.

Wait a minute. Ten percent of those going to jail every year are assumed to be "criminal aliens"? How is that number derived when we have no idea the number of "illegal immigrants" there are in the country, much less what percentage of that population is "criminal alien"?

Critics say that deporting the worst criminal illegal immigrants, by itself, does not go far enough because it would not fully address the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants already in the United States or deter further illegal immigration.

The program could help answer for the first time a question that has been intertwined with debates over immigration policy: How many illegal immigrants in the United States are convicted of non-immigration crimes?
There's no reason to assume the percentage would be any bigger than the adult U.S. resident population of criminal activity out there (less than 5%).

Unless, of course, the topic is "illegals," and politicians on both sides of the aisle are bloviating somewhere.

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