“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
Those famous words, part of a sonnet written by Emma Lazarus in 1883, are inscribed on a plaque mounted on the inner wall of the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty in New York. For decades The Statue of Liberty was usually the first thing refugees and hopeful immigrants saw as their boat entered New York harbor and the waters of the United States. The United States of America was always known as the one place down trodden and persecuted peoples from around the world could come for a new start. Most of you reading this article are decedents of immigrants. Immigrants built this country and made it into the greatest country in the world. Most people don’t know the United States naturalizes more people per year than all the countries of the world combined. A record 1,046,539 persons were naturalized as U.S. citizens in 2008 alone. It is our differences that have always made us strong and unique in the world. But as I continue please do not confuse “Legal Immigrants” who took the time and effort to become a legal American citizens with those “Illegal Immigrants” that take the fast and dangerous track into this country. So why has illegal immigration suddenly rocketed to the forefront of today’s news headlines?
Economics. According to the National Research Council illegal immigrants cost taxpayers 346 billion dollars annually. California’s cost according to F.A.I.R. is $10.1 billion. As our cities here in America scramble to balance failing budgets and cut corners they can no longer afford to take such hits especially those of us who live in the Border States; Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California, who take the brunt of the costs.
In an article titled Criminal Alien Nation, by Edwin Rubenstein, criminal illegal aliens are a growing threat. In summary, he reports:
“In 1980, our Federal and state facilities held fewer than 9,000 criminal aliens but at the end of 2003, approximately 267,000 illegal aliens were incarcerated in U.S. correctional facilities.” The figure is estimated at double that today. “The article goes on to state that in fiscal 2004, the Federal govt. spent $1.4 billion to incarcerate criminal aliens, 75% of that cost to be picked up by the local jurisdiction. It is worth noting that all the incarceration costs are ultimately paid for by the taxpayers.”
It gets worse.
An interim report from the House Committee on Homeland Security, A Line in the Sand: Confronting the Threat at the Southwest Border details the criminal activity and violence taking place along the Southwest border and notes that the region has been experiencing “an alarming rise in the level of criminal cartel activity, including drugs and human smuggling. The report notes that in 2005, Federal drug seizures were a total of 1,129,275 pounds of cocaine and 6,866,465 pounds of marijuana. Most of that was along the southern border. Additionally, the report further states that Federal law enforcement estimates that only 10-30% of illegal aliens are actually apprehended and only 10-20% of the drugs are seized.
The Department of Justice’s latest National Drug Threat Assessment says there were 267 kidnappings in Phoenix last year and 299 in 2008. The report said the victims usually have a connection to immigrant smuggling groups or drug traffickers. The report also showed that assaults against U.S. law enforcement on the southwestern border are on the rise. The report found that the number of attacks on Border Patrol agents increased 46 percent to 1,097 incidents in fiscal 2008. The report said the assaults were mostly related to immigrant smuggling. Together, Arizona, California and Texas are now home to 4.7 million of the 11 million illegal immigrants the Department of Homeland Security estimates are in the country.
Pretty sobering stuff to say the least. For those of us who live in and around the Los Angeles area here are some additional numbers provided by Heather MacDonald in a 2004 article, The Illegal-Alien Crime Wave:
• In Los Angeles, 95% of some 1,500 outstanding warrants for homicides are for illegal aliens. About 67% of the 17,000 outstanding fugitive felony warrants are for illegal aliens.
According to Arizona Senator Russell Pierce, the author of Arizona controversial Immigration Law, 87% of all the Peace Officers murdered in Arizona were killed by illegal immigrants. Is it any wonder Arizona decided to act. This is the heart of the Arizona Immigration law that has stirred up the country. Section 1. B & C.
B. For any lawful contact stop, detention or arrest made by a law enforcement official or a law enforcement agency of this state or a law enforcement official or a law enforcement agency of a county, city, town or other political subdivision of this state in the enforcement of any other law or ordinance of a county, city or town or this state where reasonable suspicion exists that the person is an alien who and is unlawfully present in the United States, a reasonable attempt shall be made, when practicable, to determine the immigration status of the person, except if the determination may hinder or obstruct an investigation. Any person who is arrested shall have the person’s immigration status determined before the person is released. The person’s immigration status shall be verified with the federal government pursuant to 8 United States code section 1373(c). A law enforcement official or agency of this state or a county, city, town or other political subdivision of this state may not solely consider race, color or national origin in implementing the requirements of this subsection except to the extent permitted by the United States or Arizona Constitution. A person is presumed to not be an alien who is unlawfully present in the United States if the person provides to the law enforcement officer or agency any of the following:
1. A valid Arizona driver license.
2. A valid Arizona no operating identification license.
3. A valid tribal enrollment card or other form of tribal identification.
4. If the entity requires proof of legal presence in the United States before issuance, any valid United States federal, state or local government issued identification.
C. If an alien who is unlawfully present in the United States is convicted of a vio
lation of state or local law, on discharge from imprisonment or on the assessment of any monetary obligation that is imposed, the United States immigration and customs enforcement or the United States customs and border protection shall be immediately notified.
Pretty cut and dry stuff. But what will this law really do?
Will it prevent the flow of Illegal Immigrants into the United States. NO. This law does not give local authorities the right to patrol the border.
So all this law will really do is allow local and state law enforcement to ask for proof of citizenship AFTER the person has already been stopped for a crime then detain them. So basically this law is reactionary not preventative. What this law will do is put added pressure on local law enforcement. It will cause more paperwork and keep law enforcement officials from doing the jobs they are supposed to do….be on the streets, protecting Arizona citizens. If the projected numbers are correct and this law actually goes into effect, Arizona’s local jails and prisons will be heavily overcrowded. And who pays for all of this? You guessed it…the taxpayers of Arizona.
One begins to wonder the real reason behind placing such a law on the books. As I said earlier it does nothing to prevent Illegal Immigration and will put a huge financial burden on a state already suffering from the economic firestorm. So why do it? The answer is simple, to bring what is essentially a Southwestern States problem to the attention of the rest of the country. And to embarrass the Federal Government into actively enforcing laws already on the books. If that is what the governor and lawmakers of Arizona were after they are succeeding but if they were interested in writing a law that would stem the tidal wave of Illegal Immigration then they will fail horribly.
So what’s to be done?
The Federal Government needs to put some of the paid back billions of the TARP money into I.C.E., hire more agents and shut down the crossings. They need to make Mexico understand that they are a partner in this and they need to actively attack this problem from their side. If they refuse they need to be reminded that AFTA can be cancelled as quickly as it was signed. As far as amnesty for those already in this country illegally? Our government needs to realize that giving lawbreakers a “free ride” does nothing but prompt more illegal immigration.
Over the last few weeks I have heard several news networks reporting Civil Rights Advocates saying that most of the illegal immigrants are not criminals and are law abiding people. Maybe most are good people but if you are in this country illegally you are committing a Federal crime, therefore all illegal immigrants are criminals. They also complain it takes too long to become an American citizen. Truth be told once you file your application for citizenship it can take anywhere from five months to two years before your interview. Then if you’re approved the swearing in ceremony can take anywhere from one week to 180 days. The total cost is $595.00 but, you must have had a valid green card and been a legal alien therefore for five years prior. Maybe our lamp is not as bright as it used to be and our golden door a bit tarnished but I don’t think waiting two years or spending $595.00 is a bad price to pay for the privilege to vote without fear, practice your religion in peace and the right to speak you mind freely. If some still think the waits too long, wait till they have to go to the DMV.
© 2010 by Ira Schwartz. Used with Permission. All Rights Reserved.