31 August 2005

Weird Immigration Policies.

I favor a massive grant of legal status to almost all people in the United States who are currently illegal immigrants (a point upon which I don't differ dramatically from President George W. Bush, who wants a guest worker program without calling it "amnesty" per se, although I would go slightly further, to emulate the immigration policies of Ronald Reagan who implemented on of the most massive immigration amnesties in our history). I also favor less restrictive immigration laws in the first place. Why I favor those policies is beyond the scope of this post.

But, I can also understand the frustration of officials who are charged with enforcing existing laws. The County Sheriff in conservative El Paso County, Colorado, home to Colorado Springs, is one of those frustrated people.

El Paso County spent $1.2 million in 2004 to jail illegal immigrants . . . This year, the price tag will be higher because the jail is now housing 75 to 100 undocumented workers a day, compared with 50 to 60 last year, he said. . . Sheriff Terry Maketa . . . notified ICE and the Mexican consulate that he wanted to drive some of the undocumented inmates to the Mexican border . . . about 75 percent of the undocumented inmates face charges ranging from misdemeanor traffic offenses to attempted murder. If they're convicted, they enter the state correction system. But the other 25 percent are held only as undocumented immigrants and are rarely deported upon release . . . ICE is notified each time an undocumented inmate is processed. ICE picks up only five or six inmates a week, Goodall said. Those who don't face charges are released after 72 hours . . . .

In other words, El Paso County spends $300,000 a year jailing people whose only offense is lack of a valid visa, for the privilege of letting those several hundred people a year spend a few days in an immigration jail, after which they are not deported by the immigration agency that had them in custody. Fortunately, this is federal immigration law which isn't supposed to make sense.

Given this status quo, the stance of Denver's police department, that pure immigration violations are somebody else's problem, is entirely understandable, whatever your stance on the larger issue of immigration law may be. Doing pointless stuff at great expense is never good policy.

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