When the snowpocalypse ends in Washington, and political hot air thaws the frozen streets, expect to see mules and elephants parade in bipartisan togetherness — at least in one area. The party of Lincoln and the party of tea could well agree with the following words of President Obama on the urgency of fiscal responsibility (even as they disagree on whether the trimming of deficits has begun in earnest):
[A]t a time when we face not only a fiscal crisis, but also a host of difficult challenges as a nation, business as usual in Washington just won’t do. . . . After years of irresponsibility, we are once again taking responsibility for every dollar we spend, the same way families do.
Why then are partisans on both sides of the aisle not roundly applauding the recent dollar-pinching actions of a U.S. District Court judge in Texas? Last week in U.S. v. Ordones-Soto, et al., the judge ordered the United States Attorney and the Assistant United States Attorney when prosecuting cases pursuant to 8 U.S.C. § 1326 to be prepared “in all future sentencings to state the substantive reason(s) for the prosecution of each individual case.” 8 U.S.C. § 1326 punishes the illegal entry to the U.S. of a person previously deported.
Citing three illegal-reentry cases before the court, the judge noted that county jail payments for six months of incarcerating the convicted defendants (“with no significant criminal history”) cost taxpayers over $13,500. This sum pales in comparison to the costs in time and money of court personnel salaries and operating expenses, and those of the U.S. Attorneys Office, the U.S. Marshal’s Service, the U.S. Probation Office, payments to appointed defense counsel and Federal Public Defenders, interpreters, medical and dental care providers, and drivers transporting defendants to and from the jail.
With “every judge in the Western District of Texas . . . sentencing a substantial number of illegal [entrants and reentrants] every month,” the judge berated the government for its spendthrift ways:
The expenses of prosecuting illegal entry and reentry cases (rather than deportation) on aliens without any significant criminal record is simply mind boggling. The U.S. Attorney’s policy of prosecuting all aliens presents a cost to the American taxpayer at this time that is neither meritorious nor reasonable.
The cost to taxpayers of the removal machinery (and I’m not talking snow here but people) will only grow if, as described in a report this month by the American Bar Association (ABA) Commission on Immigration and Arnold & Porter, the Executive Office for Immigration Review is to be given the authority, resources and judges sufficient to match the number of cases in immigration court with the expensive demands of due process as the ABA House of Delegates proposes.
My point is not that we emulate Scrooge McDuck to hoard the few remaining dollars in the public coffers, thereby giving up on enforcement of the immigration laws. Rather, we need due process in removal proceedings and in federal court, but also a wise and fiscally sound exercise of prosecutorial and presidential discretion. It’s time to stanch the unending flow of “aliens without any significant criminal record” into over-crowded county jails, immigration detention facilities and immigration courts. Federal Courts should be the place where U.S. Attorneys bring to justice very bad people: Ponzi-scheme perpetrators; Medicare and mortgage fraudsters; drug traffickers; cybercriminals, RICO conspirators, insider traders and givers and takers of bribes.
In other words, it’s way past time for the Obama Administration and Congress to push really hard on bipartisan and comprehensive immigration reform or or for the President to exercise his discretionary power proactively to address this immigration fiscal fiasco, while striking a blow against terrorism, with user-fee-financed grants of deferred action and employment authorization.