From personal experience I have seen many illegal aliens apprehended while entering the US, who have previous arrests (in the US) for serious crimes such as aggravated assault, family violence, and sexual assault with minors. However, (according to data) the majority of these arrests are never taken to court in order to get a conviction. These aliens are instead turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement for removal to their country of citizenship.
The problem is that after these illegal aliens return to their homes, they only stay for a few days before trying to illegally enter the United States again. Then, if they are caught, they still face minimal sentencing if they are prosecuted, because they were not convicted of the serious crimes they committed previously.
I understand that many local communities might not want to spend their taxpayer money to feed and house an inmate while they are awaiting trial, but illegal aliens who are not convicted of the more serious felonies that they commit are essentially treated the same as aliens who have not committed any other crimes.
Statistics have proven that illegal aliens are less likely to try to return to the US if they have previously been prosecuted for their illegal entry. And I would argue that if statistics were kept for such a thing, longer sentences would be more of a deterrent.
So. How much does it cost to send an illegal alien to trial and get a conviction anyway?
And would it not be worth it to the victims and their families to know that their attackers had been convicted and faced severe punishment if they returned to the US?
Shouldn't the question be: What is the cost not to prosecute?
As with every other case, felony or misdemeanor, scarce resources are available to prosecute illegal entrants for their crime(s). Far from having a bottomless pocket, I find the U.S. Attorneys having to pick and choose which cases they try, as do State prosecutors. I happen to be one who believes that the cost of NOT prosecuting is a far heavier burden on society, as many see license in the State's or federal government's inability to handle ever increasing caseloads, with limited resources.
If you, like me, have spent 25 years as a prosecutor, you know that you are doing it for everything but the money. I make about 1/3 to 1/2 of what a first year associate in a medium sized private firm makes. My best friend from law school, who had been in the courtroom one time in 25 years, on a civil motion, told me that he didn't understand how I could do the job of standing in front of juries and judges on a daily basis. You couldn't pay him enough, he said. His take home pay? Well, let's just say that he retired early, and was making well in excess of $1,000,000 a year - pushing paper. I am happy for him, and he deserved every penny he made. I'm just saying. I do this job because I love it. To the public, however, I am just one of thousands of lazy, inefficient bureaucrats who suck on the government teat.
Getting the public to understand the need to fully fund the justice system is a never ending battle. No one wants to raise taxes, a necessity if we are going to hire quality career prosecutors, try more cases, and build the prisons of which we are in desperate need.
We are not, ourselves, immune to the hue and cry for "free government". I actually had a career prosecutor tell me that more capital cases should go the full death penalty route, but, when I asked how to pay for them, he adamantly replied, "just don't increase taxes". I guess he thought a nice bake sale would do the trick.
Am I the only one who sees a disconnect between the demand for increased prosecution (and incarceration or enhanced community supervision) and decreased funding? "Do more for less" can only go so far.
"What is the cost not to prosecute?," is an even harder question to put a price tag on.
The government is constantly trying to find ways to come up with objective systems of measuring performance, even if those systems are then sometimes twisted and perverted in order to fit a particular political agenda.
I will admit that my own political leanings tend toward making it easier to get a non-immigrant work visa, while doing more to enforce penalties on criminals entering the United States illegally.
That being stated, I am trying to determine if it is reasonable to make more of an effort to persuade local authorities to try to convict serious criminals who are illegal aliens, based on the argument that it helps the US government identify the more serious threats to security while dealing with a limited budget.
First, let me say that I appreciate your work as a prosecutor, and I mean that sincerely.
Unfortunately, I am well aware that U.S. Attorneys are often accused of picking only the "slam-dunk" cases to prosecute while taking a pass on prosecuting some of the harder (and more serious) cases, in order to pad their resume for the purpose of getting hired by private firm. I have been guilty of this in the past and I apologize to you now. It seems to me that anyone who has done the job for 25 years is obviously too dedicated to quit and too effective to have been fired.
Second, I am just as guilty of being unwilling to raise taxes to fund additional court and detention costs. I would be much more willing to reallocate current funding away from less vital programs, although those may be much more difficult to identify on a local level than they are in the federal government.
It is my suspicion that local prosecutors often do not try to prosecute illegal aliens because they know that ICE will deport them as soon as they are turned over. Why pay to prosecute and put an illegal alien in jail, when we can just send them back to where they came from?
I suspect that if illegal aliens who have been arrested for serious crimes faced a speedy trial, they would most often plead guilty if offered a suspended sentence on the condition that they never be arrested again. I think an illegal alien, who upon release was going to be set free and returned home, should find that to be an acceptable proposition.
All of this leads back to the question, how much more money does it cost to do this?
If you figure in the costs of the prosecutor, defense counsel, judges, clerks, reporters, appeals, court reporters, physical facility overhead (courts), office supplies and technology costs, police officer testimony, juror fees, etc., you MAY be able to get by, on the cheap , for about $20,000.00 for a three day trial, with a subsequent appeal. The crook's cost? About $300-$400 in court costs (never paid), attorney's fees (never paid if indigent). That is on the cheap. One must figure a capital murder trial, beginning to end, costs about $2.5 million, as a conservative estimate.
I used bottom line figures that I scratched out on my trusty legal pad. The figures are those for a State case. Federal prosecutions cost about 25% more, I would guess, just based on pay scales.
And, bottom line, anyone that thinks that is a lot needs to realize that prosecutions in Texas cost about 1/2 of what they cost in California.
So what I'm hearing is I'd have better luck arguing that the U.S. President should just bill the illegal alien’s country of citizenship for reimbursement of those costs, plus the costs of removing the illegal alien back home. It just doesn’t seem very cost effective to pay that much to punish someone for their crime when the U.S. government should be preventing them from being here in the first place. And as I said before, the federal government has far more questionable spending than local governments.
Thank you very much MDK27 for your insight and for the work you do.
So, if we send the illegals back to Mexico who's going to mow my lawn and clean my pool?
Since 49 out of 100 people are receiving government assistance it shouldn't be too hard to find someone.
According to your link Social Security and Medicare is considered government assistance.
Since Warren Buffet collects Social Security that puts him in the "49" group. But I'd be happy to interview him for the "pool boy" position.
Whatever the cost, I believe it sends entirely the wrong message to allow illegal aliens to escape the U.S. and avoid consequences for their actions.
I have defense attorneys tell me all the time, "This guy's got an ICE hold on him anyway, he's going to get deported, let's just give him time served or drop one of his charges so we can get him out of here. Let's save the county some money, he's going to get punished as it is, so why keep him here?"
That can be a very tempting line of thinking. Clear a case, get an inmate off of the county's books, secure an easy conviction.
The problem is, it's not fair. It's not fair to the legal, U.S. citizen who's committed the same offense. Because that citizen defendant WON'T be given a lowered jail sentence or a lowered charge. And the "punishment" that the alien's defense attorney is is asking me to swallow consists of his client being shipped back to his home country and set free. Free to, as you point out Marc_R, run right back across the border at the first opportunity. Or not. Either way, the U.S. citizen sits in jail while the alien gets off with a slap on the wrist.
The bottom line is that this alleged "punishment" isn't any certain punishment at all. It's not anything provided for in the Penal Code and it's likely to be a brief trip for the defendant. It consists entirely of him being sent back to the place he was already supposed to be until he illegally entered the U.S. I'm not going to reward him for his own illegal entry by letting him have an absurdly low plea offer that a citizen or legal resident wouldn't get.
For these kinds of defendant, cost is often the least of the barriers to prosecution. A defendant who is an illegal immigrant is often committing crimes against OTHER illegal immigrants. On more than one occasion I've seen that mean you have a victim who doesn't want to be found, doesn't want to talk, doesn't want to come to court, or who has moved out of the jurisdiction (and possibly even back to their country of origin). Prosecutorial zeal isn't the only limiting factor.
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