The Arizona law has the salutary purpose of increasing the chance that any given illegal alien will be lawfully detected and deported, but the record suggests that a huge percentage of individuals apprehended under the law will simply illegally reenter.
This ICE press release boasts of success stories from the Secure Communities program, which under the Obama administration focuses on identifying and deporting only the most serious criminal aliens. It presents 26 cases in which violent or otherwise serious offenders were apprehended since late 2008; a full 13 of them had already been deported, many multiple times.
The record for reentry goes to a Mexican aggravated felon apprehended in Florence, Ariz., on May 22, 2009, who had been deported nine times, following 51 documented arrests under 16 different aliases. The runner-up is a Mexican arrested for assault causing bodily injury on June 9, 2009, in Starr County, Texas, who had been deported five times and was convicted of attempted murder in 2005. More typical is a Guatemalan drug dealer apprehended in Dallas on Aug. 7, 2009, who has been deported twice, and whose lengthy criminal history includes aggravated assault with a deadly weapon (legalese for shooting someone); a Honduran MS-13 gang member booked on March 8, 2009, in Boston, who had previously been removed once; and a Mexican gang member arrested for strong arm aggravated assault in Maricopa County, Ariz., who had been previously convicted of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and deported once.
The logic of the Arizona law is that by increasing the chance of detection, it will discourage illegal aliens from entering in the first place and encourage those already in the country to leave on their own. Undoubtedly, many people will respond to the law as intended; the deterrent effect would be even greater if more states followed Arizona’s lead and discarded their actual or de facto sanctuary policies. But for other illegal aliens, the threat of detection and deportation is apparently not particularly meaningful. I don’t know whether the rate of illegal reentry (which is a felony) is higher for serious criminal aliens compared with illegal aliens who do not commit other crimes. But clearly, better interior enforcement, while a necessary part of restoring the immigration rule of law, cannot succeed in the absence of a truly secure border. The only reason for not creating a border fence that I can see is ambivalence about whether we really want to prevent illegal entry.