Friday, January 25, 2008

Immigration Costs Going Up

To be fair, America decided to ignore the rules on immigration a long, long time ago. Therefore, it is not really a surprise the situation in Dane County is a mess that is going to be expensive to resolve, no matter which way the powers to be decide to resolve fuzzy legality.

A warning on illegal immigrants: A stepped-up federal crackdown on incarcerated illegal immigrants could swamp Dane County’s court system, a Madison lawyer is warning. Anthony Delyea has threatened to resign from the Criminal Defense Project, a county program that provides legal counsel for defendants who don’t qualify financially for a public defender, unless the county changes its policy of reporting undocumented inmates to Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Delyea has three cases going to trial Monday involving defendants who typically would accept plea bargains and reduced jail sentences. But recent fears in the Hispanic community that even a short jail sentence could mean deportation have led more illegal immigrants charged with crimes such as drunken driving to opt for a lengthy trial, Delyea said.

The story goes into the various facts and fictions about the interaction between local and federal officials, but the gist is that if individuals knowing they are illegal residents fear being deported, the incentive is to stall for as much time as possible, and that means avoiding all plea deals and maxing out the court process. Stalling is the advice Peter Munoz of Centro Hispano of Dane County provides clients. Again from the article:

No one disputed reporting the most serious offenders. Munoz said it was more a question of the lower-level offenders -- particularly those with multiple driver 's license violations -- who shouldn’t be reported. He said it would be up to the sheriff, judges and district attorney to create a criteria for who should be reported and who should be protected.

This is a key phrase: “Who should be protected”. The whole premise is that one transgression (illegal immigration) is to be overlooked. Illegal immigration plus driving without a valid license is a look the other way. Illegal immigration plus drunk and disorderly is fine the first time or two. Illegal immigration plus spouse abuse starts a local police file. Finally, if it turns out the person is doing “serious” bad things, then maybe a call to the Feds.

If there is a lesson in all of this, it may be that pursuing social justice by weakening the rule of law isn’t going to be inexpensive or trouble free.