President Obama purports to be in favor of deporting one category of illegal aliens, at least: criminals. At his El Paso speech on immigration reform, he touted his administration’s record (to boos from the crowd) of deporting “people convicted of crimes.”
Why, then, does Obama support the DREAM Act? (We will leave aside the fact that Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s actual performance deporting criminals is lackadaisical at best.) The DREAM Act would confer legal status and immunity from deportation on illegal aliens with criminal records. Just which criminal offenders would be eligible for amnesty is unclear from the poorly drafted statute. At the very least, illegals who have been convicted three times of misdemeanors and sentenced to under 90 days in total would be eligible (so long as they meet the act’s other residency and education requirements). Whether someone with six convictions sentenced to two weeks each time, say, would qualify is unclear. Given the universal practices of pleading down felonies to misdemeanors, putting offenders on probation rather than sentencing them to overcrowded jails, and failing to prosecute arrestees at all, a wide variety of serious miscreants would be included in the category of criminals with “only” three misdemeanor convictions and 90 days in jail. Harried big-city prosecutors usually treat the theft of a car as a “non-serious” offense unworthy of jail time, so long as you don’t use a gun to steal it. But even if only so-called “minor offenses” were covered by the DREAM Act’s big amnesty tent — shoplifting, for example, or drug possession, drunk driving, and other assaults on public order — why should any criminal offender qualify for legal status, especially after having already broken the law to enter the country in the first place?
The DREAM Act sponsors have never publicly justified their desire to protect illegal-alien criminals from the mere possibility of deportation. But the claim that it is unfair to deport alleged “minor” criminals is ubiquitous in the advocacy community; it drives the building opposition to ICE’s Secure Communities program (which checks jail inmates against ICE databases).
A series of cascading deceits and fictions lies behind this widespread call for amnesty for criminals:
First lie: So-called “minor” offenses are innocuous and do no harm. Tell that to a struggling property owner whose sole investment has just been defaced with graffiti and now faces the choice of shelling out the money and labor to remove the blight or leaving the graffiti tags up and signaling that his property exists in a crime-ridden neighborhood. Someone whose bag has just been stolen from a movie theater hardly feels safe and unviolated. A hard-working resident of a poor community whose children have to navigate around the drunks hanging out on the corner each afternoon would love surcease from the alleged “minor” offenses of public drinking and loitering. “Minor” offenses are criminalized because they do real harm to neighborhoods and to individuals’ sense of security. The idea that we should do everything we can to keep “minor” offenders in the community and in the country is ludicrous.
Second lie: It is all but impossible not to acquire a criminal record. The outrage against deporting “low-level” criminals only makes sense if you believe that becoming a “low-level” criminal lies outside the normal range of self-control. Clearly that is not the case. Far more people obey the law than fail to obey it; those who don’t obey it have made a conscious choice to violate social norms and should rightly be held accountable — especially when they have no right to be in the country in the first place. It speaks to the sense of entitlement on the part of illegal aliens that they continue to commit crimes despite their illegal status.
Defenders of the rule of law should draw a line in the sand regarding both the DREAM Act and the Secure Communities program: No amnesty for criminals. They should force DREAM Act proponents and Secure Communities opponents (now including Illinois governor Pat Quinn and a raft of New York State politicians) to explain why anti-social lawbreakers deserve protection from deportation. Force the amnesty advocates to say, as they must: “Stealing from a hardware store in Harlem or Southside Chicago is no big deal.” “Driving without a license or while drunk is a trivial oversight.” Illegal-alien activists constantly tout the alleged law-abidingness of illegal aliens. If illegals are in fact such model citizens, their advocates shouldn’t object to requiring a clean record to qualify for amnesty, since such a requirement would exclude very few illegals from eligibility. Or would it?