As I was reading this relatively heartening story about the Obama administration’s plan to check all jail inmates for immigration status, the fun part was calculating the odds that the illegal-alien lobby would oppose even this no-brainer program. I should not have been so naïve. There was no chance that they wouldn’t object to the program. Verifying the immigration status of arrestees could lead to the “criminalization” of illegal immigration and to immigration checks in other arenas, warn Amnesty International and immigrant advocates, according to the Washington Post. Straining even further for reasons to oppose this modest, commonsense policy, Tom Barry, an analyst for the Center for International Policy, a nonprofit research and policy institute in Washington, said the initiative “could sweep up foreign-born U.S. residents who have served time for offenses but were not deported.”
So there you have it, for the illegal-alien lobby, even murderers and rapists should be shielded from the cruel and inhumane reach of the U.S. immigration law. Better that one hundred citizens be held up at gunpoint than one illegal alien be deported. Though the illegals lobby appears to have lost on this round, their constant affirmation of the idea that deportation is inherently unjust remains the dominant trope in media coverage of illegal immigration. The lobby’s continuing influence means that when Obama gets his amnesty through, the chances that those illegals who don’t qualify for amnesty will actually be deported are slim. And that in turn means that the chance that the amnesty will do anything other than encourage more illegals to come is zero.
Still, the Obama administration deserves some credit for planning to expand the Bush-era jail check program, known as Secure Communities. In theory, every jail inmate will have his name run through immigration databases. Computer data-matching will not catch those criminal illegal aliens who have not had encounters with the immigration authorities, however — surely the majority of criminal illegals, given the paucity of immigration agents. The executive director of Secure Communities acknowledged that defect, but told the Los Angeles Times that the additional layer of human screening in the program would mitigate that shortcoming. Maybe, or maybe not. As the Times notes, Pedro Espinoza, the illegal alien suspected of killing high school football player Jamiel Shaw II after being released from Los Angeles County Jail, had told authorities that he was U.S.-born. No one in the jail gainsaid him.
A broader application of Secure Communities could help resolve one of the ongoing debates about the social benefits of our current immigration flows: the rate of crime among first-generation Hispanic immigrants. The illegal-alien lobby asserts that it is much lower than the national average, but data has been meager. What is known is that second- and third-generation Hispanic immigrants have about three times higher the rate of crime as whites. ICE estimates that one-tenth of all bookings in local jails will be found to be criminal aliens, according to the Washington Post. If that proves true, the crime rate for illegals is greatly disproportionate to their population figures.
Rep. Lamar Smith (Tex.) smells a bluff here, charging that the administration will use Secure Communities as an excuse to halt immigration enforcement in other areas, even against less serious criminals. That could well be so and deserves watching. But any positive recognition of the value of enforcement from the Obama administration is to be welcomed.