The Cost of Fighting Illegal Immigration


This week NPR is running a story on the unknown price of border convictions. The question is that we're "getting tough on illegal immigration" but what is it costing. Turns out, no one3 knows. But we can guess:

But even tripling the number of Operation Streamline defendants wouldn't come close to meeting the program's stated goal of zero tolerance: prosecuting everyone caught crossing illegally. In the Tucson sector, that would currently be nearly 1,000 prosecutions every weekday -- a quarter-million people a year.

The presiding federal judge for Arizona, John Roll, says it's his job to carry out policy, not to make it. But, Roll says, prosecuting everyone is not possible.

"You can't prosecute all 250,000 people in Arizona. We would have more cases than the rest of the entire country. You would take the resources now for the entire country and just double it and put them in Arizona," he says.

In other words, to prosecute these misdemeanors, Arizona would need to have a federal criminal justice system twice the size of the rest of the country. No one has contemplated what that would cost. There is one estimate of how much it would cost just to detain and hire a lawyer for every illegal immigrant caught entering the Tucson sector: close to $1 billion a year. That estimate was done by the Warren Institute at the University of California, Berkeley law school.

From Border Convictions: High Stakes, Unknown Price : NPR
Referenced Tue Sep 14 2010 07:50:34 GMT-0600 (MDT)

Did you catch that, to prosecute the illegal immigrants in Arizona alone would require a judiciary twice the size of the entire judiciary of the United States. This is to prosecute misdemeanors by people who are just coming into the US to find work and make a better life for themselves. We're not talking about dangerous felons here. We could spend $10's of billions "getting tough."

The problem facing the US is real, but the solution isn't getting tougher on illegal immigration. That is just a money pit--probably more expensive than just letting them come and live with us. The problem is that the US, a wealthy country, shares a long, impossible-to-protect border with a relatively poorer country. Short of moving Mexico somewhere else, we can't make this problem go away. So what to so?

Let me give an analogy. Suppose you're getting on a plane and it's clear, because they're closing the door, that you're the last person. You get to the aisle and see that the plane is completely full. Only one seat left--yours. And that seat is right next to someone who's very overweight. They're spilling into your seat. Not a good situation. What are you choices? Not take the flight, get mad, or snuggle in.

The first doesn't get you where you want to go. The second does nothing productive. The third, while not plesant, gets you where you want to be with the least fuss. The US can't "not take the flight". Mexico is our neighbor and will remain so. We are getting mad right now and all it's doing is costing lots of money and not solving the problem.

The third choice is our only viable alternative: embrace Mexico and it's citizens. Many won't want to, but it's the only real solution. Ultimately the US and Mexico will have to become one. The way to solve the problems of Mexico is to extend to them the solutions of the United States. They need our help fighting drugs and growing their economy. Unless they are really part of the US, we will continue to ignore them. Over time, I think we need to consider how we can make the Mexican states part of these united states. Statehood for Chihuahua!!