The United States is apparently facing a critical shortage of illegal aliens. If you’ve spent any time in Tucson or Los Angeles, you might not recognize this emergency situation. But the illegal-alien deficit is so dire that special accommodations must be given to petty criminals, to make sure that they don’t depart our shores. Acceding to pressure from illegal-alien advocates, the Obama administration has clarified that local law-enforcement agencies that have been deputized to enforce immigration law (this enforcement power is known as 287(g) authority) should focus on so-called “dangerous” illegals “who are a threat to local communities” — and not, by implication, on illegals who disobey misdemeanor and public-order laws.
Who are these precious assets who must be reassured of their secure place in American communities? The Los Angeles Times has dug up some victims of local immigration enforcement that it considers particularly sympathetic. They are people like Diana and Yolanda Diaz, arrested for assault and disorderly conduct during a high-school fight in Raleigh, N.C. When officials at the Wake County jail learned that the Diaz sisters were illegal, they handed the brawlers over to federal immigration authorities. The Diaz sisters are incensed that their right to live illegally in the United States has been disrupted. “It’s not fair,” the 16-year-old Diana told the Times. And indeed, American high schools are far too quiet and disciplined. We need girls like the Diaz sisters to liven things up.
Other victims include people like Luis Cruz Millan, who blasted his car stereo at high decibels in the middle of the night while parked on a residential street in Raleigh, prompting a neighbor to call the police. Millan’s illegal status having thus come to the attention of the authorities, he is now facing deportation, to the undoubted consternation of his neighbors, who won’t want to lose such a pillar of respectability. Further potential victims include the tens of thousands of illegals who drive drunk, drink in public, drive without licenses, and shoplift, and who, the illegal-alien advocates tell us, must be shielded from the immigration laws.
Illegals, of course, have no valid argument against deportation in any circumstance — they chose to enter the country illegally and assumed the risk that their law-breaking would be punished. But illegals who continue to break the law once here should be doubly inhibited from protesting against deportation. Moreover, it is precisely such “petty” crimes and quality-of-life offenses — school violence, litter, public urination, drunk driving — that most upset neighborhood stability and trigger resentment against illegals, as Peter Skerry has observed. The breakthrough insight of 1990s policing was that lower-level offenses against public order create a sense of fear and civic disengagement that breeds further crime. The perpetrators of such lower-level crimes often are engaged in more serious offenses as well.
The illegal-alien advocates could take a different tack in their campaign to guarantee that no illegal ever get deported: Instruct illegals to scrupulously obey the domestic laws so as not to come to the attention of the police. But such advice never issues from La Raza or the phalanx of immigration attorneys who howl at every deportation of an illegal criminal.
Though this tightening of 287(g) authority comes under the Obama administration, the Bush administration was no fan of the statute, either, and resisted allowing sheriff’s deputies to enforce immigration law on the streets against gangbangers. The trend is clear. When amnesty finally rolls around, among those millions of illegals allowed to jump the queue ahead of people who intend to be legal immigrants will be hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of criminals whose residency in the U.S. has been carefully protected to guarantee their ability to take advantage of the inevitable amnesty.
— Heather Mac Donald is the John M. Olin fellow at the Manhattan Institute and co-author of The Immigration Solution.