In Maricopa County, Arizona, they’re attempting to “crack down” on illegal immigrants (from The Guardian):
Four Mexican men sit in the dirt with their wrists bound, shoulders hunched and eyes lowered to avoid the glare of the rising sun.
The immigrants had been on their way to build a dairy farm in this town about an hour southwest of Phoenix. But after a traffic stop for a faulty brake light, members of a sheriff’s task force targeting human and drug smugglers found they were not U.S. citizens. Now they were bound for federal custody.
Beginning Wednesday, more illegal immigrants coming through Maricopa County could meet the same fate as the sheriff’s department beefs up its efforts to find illegal immigrants.
If Maricopa County wishes to spend its tax dollars to combat local human / drug smuggling, Polimom doesn’t see a problem, but this makes absolutely no sense to me at all:
The law made human smuggling a state crime in Arizona – it was already a federal crime – allowing local law enforcement agencies to arrest suspected smugglers. It was meant to crack down on smugglers, but under a disputed interpretation, County Attorney Andrew Thomas argues the law can be applied to the smuggled immigrants themselves.
Thomas maintains illegal immigrants who pay smugglers to enter the United States are committing conspiracy to smuggle and can therefore be prosecuted under the state law.
The sheriff’s office began arresting illegal immigrants under that interpretation in March, and with the new posse, will continue doing so by patrolling desert areas and main roadways in the southwestern part of the county.
“I’m going to catch as many as I can and throw them in my jail,” said Sheriff Joe Arpaio. “And the jails are not that nice.”
This is exactly what has worried Polimom about the “criminalization” approach to illegal immigrants. Sheriff Arpaio is (in this specific story) only talking about four folks, and I have to assume the county jail can handle the food and board for such low numbers.
However, there’s rather a lot more to “jailing” somebody than tossing them in the local facility for a day, particularly if the charge is anything more than a misdemeanor. Among other things, there are a number of due process protections in America – including the right to a speedy trial, legal representation, a jury by one’s peers… the list is very long, and extremely expensive.
So fine, you say. We’re rich, we can afford this.
No. We can’t. We have over 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States. If communities start jailing every illegal immigrant they come across, we’re going to totally shut down the entire Criminal Justice system — particularly in the border states. We’ll be unable to process other people who are caught up in the system, with several obvious outcomes: denial of due process to anyone arrested, an immediate shortage of jail space, overwhelmed public defenders, and a hopelessly backlogged judiciary.
Regardless of where one stands on the illegal immigration issue, this approach will only widen the problems and implications — for all of us.