The Corner

You’ve Made Your Prison Bed, Now Sleep in It

Prison overcrowding in California is no business of judges; I’m with Scalia in fearing this to be “perhaps the most radical injunction issued by a court in our nation’s history.”

But I think Eli Lehrer is right that the state’s dysfunctional political culture is partly to blame. But it’s not just Lehrer’s indictment that correctional reform hasn’t made the progress in California that it has elsewhere; in addition, the state’s coddling of illegal aliens, and general resistance to immigration control, has helped exacerbate the problem.

The GAO reported in March that in FY 2008, there were 27,000 illegal aliens in the state prison system for whom California was receiving partial (very partial) reimbursement from the feds. (See here, p. 30.) That’s close to the total number our black-robed rulers have ordered released. And that’s not counting the legal immigrants who’ve made themselves deportable by committing crimes.

Obviously, the federal government is complicit because of its longstanding refusal to get serious about enforcing immigration laws. But California’s state and local governments and the state’s delegation in Congress have contributed to this, through sanctuary-city policies, promotion of amnesty, resistance to mandatory E-Verify, in-state tuition for illegals, etc.

But in dealing with the immediate problem of complying with the Supreme Court’s latest ukase, immigration law can be useful. You certainly don’t want to let criminal aliens get off with less punishment than Americans, but in deciding whom to release, it would be better to release a criminal onto the streets of Mexico or El Salvador than the streets of California. And if they come back, they’re then guilty of the federal felony of re-entry after deportation, which means California’s prisons don’t have to deal with him any more (assuming Eric Holder’s Justice Department will prosecute re-entry cases, which can’t be assumed).

So I look forward to Governor Moonbeam calling for faster processing of deportable aliens in his prison system and tougher immigration enforcement to keep them from coming back. As if.

Mark Krikorian — Mark Krikorian, a nationally recognized expert on immigration issues, has served as Executive Director of the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) since 1995.

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