The Immigration Mess.

ICE-Chain-Link-Fence-ROHOur buddy William Teach over at the Pirate’s Cove has a post highlighting an article by the Washington Post focusing on immigration courts.

The Post article is clearly a piece designed to garner sympathy for those caught being in the country illegally, as well as the moral weight on judges who decide their cases.

Judge Lawrence Burman sat quietly in front of the chaos, adjusting his reading glasses and sifting through a stack of files on his bench. He had 26 cases listed on his morning docket in Arlington Immigration Court — 26 decisions to make before lunchtime about the complicated future of undocumented immigrants in the United States.


In Burman’s courtroom, the urgent number on this January morning was smaller but just as daunting. He had an average of seven minutes per case.

To us, seven minutes doesn’t seem like a great deal of time to either present a case if you are prosecuting or defend a client.

At the same time, Teach says in his post that it shouldn’t even take that long:

That’s probably about 5 more than is really needed. “Are you in the United States illegally? Yes? Goodbye”.

There is merit to Teach’s position. It should be easy for a person to show that they are in the country legally.

In the case the Post article highlights, a man was arrested for DUI and was found to be here illegally from El Salvador since the year 2000.

[Mario Iraheta] had crossed into the United States illegally in 2000, and Maria had followed a year later. He worked in construction; she walked two miles each evening to wash dishes at IHOP for $8 an hour. They paid taxes, joined a church and raised three kids, now 19, 15 and 9.

It almost sounds like the American dream except for the fact that each and every day Iraheta and his wife were breaking the law. It is the illegal basis of their lives here in the US that upset many people. The life Irahata was leading illegally also infuriates the roughly 4 million people that are waiting to becomes US citizens in a legal manner.

The result is that many people call for the deportation of all illegal immigrants. While “Deport them all! No Amnesty!” makes a great sound bite, we are not sure that it is practical. The numbers just don’t work out as far as we can determine.

The estimates of illegal aliens in the country run from 10 to 12 million. (We have seen higher estimates, but we’ll stick with those numbers.) Taking the middle road of 11 million illegal immigrants, if we were able to magically able to round them all up and put them in jail, we would have to build a lot of new jails. Currently the US prison population is 2.5 million. We would have to increase the jail capacity by a factor of 4 to hold everyone. Add to that the guards, food, etc and you are talking about a good chunk of change.

And it doesn’t stop there. To process the people and have hearings, would require more courts, more judges, more clerks, more support staff, etc. If we were magically able to deport everyone, it would take over 40,000 flights of a Boeing 767 to get all illegal immigrants out of the country. (And that is based on the static number of 11 million. While we deport some people, others are going to come back into the country.) How would you get that many people on an airplane? According to the Post, the US currently deports 1000 people a day. At that rate, it would take over 30 years to deport everyone. (Once again, that is assuming that those deported never come back in or that no new illegal immigrants come into the country.)

Our point is that if we want to make immigration and the removal of illegal immigrants from the country a priority or a goal, we are going to have to devote a lot more resources to accomplish that mission. If we aren’t going to massively increase Federal spending and increase the size of the Federal government, then something else has to be done because what we are doing now isn’t working.

Last week the House Republicans released a set of “principles” on immigration.

We believe that in many ways, it is a good starting point for discussion on the issue.

We like that fact that the Republicans are working the issue from both ends – securing the border as well as addressing those who are here illegally. Too often we have seen approaches that are one or the other. As a country, we have to have a comprehensive plan rather than hoping a “silver bullet” will cure all.

We like the idea that the children of parents who brought them into this country illegally can serve the country and get on a path to citizenship. While we are often not sympathetic to the idea that deporting people breaks up families, we are intrigued by the idea that those who came to this country and who are willing to put their lives on the line defending it or making it better should have a path to becoming a citizen. If they choose not to take that path, that is on them, not the government or the American people.

We like the idea that the skills a person brings to the country should be examined. In the great immigrations of the late 19th century and early 20th century, one had to possess a job skill and or an actual job to get into the country. We believe the Republican proposal continues that tradition.

There are going to be those who say that anyone here should be granted amnesty. We cannot support that. Such a belief means that people who break the law are rewarded. Such a belief means that there are no consequences to illegal actions.

There should be a middle ground where people who truly want to be American citizens can become part of the American dream and lifestyle. That doesn’t mean that everyone will want to fit into this country. Those who don’t should leave – either voluntarily or at the end of an ICE escort.

But for those who want to be here…. for those who want to become American citizens and enrich the country and its citizens, we should discuss wasy to help them achieve their dreams.

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