Deporting illegal aliens an ugly issue

(As printed in the Leavenworth Times, January 20, 2012.  I have altered it with a reference to the ID fraud arrests in St. Joseph, Mo., which did not appear in the Times.)

All Republican presidential candidates agree that the border with Mexico must be closed. There are an estimated eight to twelve million illegal immigrants already in the country. All candidates, possibly excepting Paul, imply that almost all illegals must leave. Gingrich has proposed a way for long-residence illegals to stay, but would deport the rest, probably 95% of them. No candidate offers details on how to do that.

While watching the Republican debates. I nodded yes at the idea of deporting all the illegals. After all, they are an enormous drain on public resources and committed a crime to be here. Some continue to commit crimes after arrival — prisons hold a lot of them. But, I was ignorant of the problem that deportation poses. It’s huge.

I didn’t realize how difficult the extradition process is, and what the costs are. I recently learned much more. Actually, we deport mostly criminal aliens. There are countries such as El Salvador and Cuba which don’t allow repatriation, period, so once they get inside the US, we’re stuck with them. Other countries deliberately make it difficult to take back their citizens, especially criminals, who often resume criminal activities in their home country. You can’t just put them on a bus and drive them across the border. Each must be detained, receive a trial from an immigration judge, and only if the judge orders removal can they be legally deported.

Detention of aliens is a major cost to the US. There are many detention centers for illegal aliens in the United States, all over the country. Some of these are contracted out to private firms. According to the government’s Immigration Control & Enforcement (ICE) website, there are currently none in Kansas, although in 2010 CCA, the private detention center just off Muncie Road in Leavenworth, applied for a contract for illegal alien detention. It costs about $100 per day to house an inmate, and they can be transferred between facilities at the government’s whim. From the ICE’s website (, some facts:

ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) manages and oversees the nation’s civil immigration detention system. ICE detainees placed in ERO custody represent virtually every country in the world, various security classifications, both genders, and medical conditions ranging from healthy to terminally ill.

Approximately 27 percent of inmates in Federal Bureau of Prisons custody are non-U.S. citizens.

Currently, we deport almost 400,000 illegals each year. At that rate, assuming 12 million of them, it would take 30 years to deport them all, assuming no births, deaths, and a closed border. About 55% of those are convicted criminals: drug and sex offenders, drunk drivers, and persons convicted of falsifying identification. (A large ID-forging operation was rounded up in St. Joseph in early January.)  The Department of Homeland Security and the Obama administration focus on deporting criminals. After deportation, some just turn around and come back. I didn’t know that the average sentence for re-entry is 5 years in federal prison.

The ICE has also prosecuted employers charged for employing illegals. In fiscal 2010, there were reportedly 180 employers, owners and managers charged, and over $50 million dollars in fines were collected from them.

Mexico strongly favors a one-way border, wanting us to ease restrictions on immigration into the U.S. That’s hypocritical. In Mexico, illegal residence is a felony punishable by 2 years in prison. Their main problem is their border with Guatemala, and they are reportedly very brutal with those caught crossing into Mexico.

I’m convinced that all of the candidates know all of the above, but deportation is a very ugly issue. That’s why they don’t say anything about it. What should be done? In my opinion, close the border, then remove all incentives, and make illegal status an automatic felony which we can choose to enforce or not. Entering the country with drugs or weapons should be severely punished. Penalties should be increased for employing undocumented workers. With incentives gone, Mexican illegals, by far the most numerous, might begin migrating back on their own. I think we should offer them a small bonus for leaving. Even if we do so, the problem will last for many years.


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