Immigration is a topic that brings with it a ton of emotion. Just mention the Arizona law over the dinner table and you’ll be hit with everyone’s perspective and the intensity of the feelings behind them. The divides are so intense we mince our words to walk more softly on the eggshells, or we throw it all out on the table for everyone to see.
I’ve brought this up before, but the debate is so heated, people even take issue with the nouns used to describe the subject:
Illegal immigrant. Alien. Undocumented worker. Criminal. Temporary worker. Refugee. The list goes on.
But I want to be very clear on what I report on in Monday’s paper. In 2009, the Oklahoma Criminal Illegal Alien Rapid Repatriation Act went into effect. When it did, state prison officials had one more way to address prison overcrowding and a means to identify and deport illegal immigrant convicts. These folks are in state custody, not locked up in a county or city jail because of they were driving without a license. Most of them were selling drugs, had felony alcohol-related convictions or had committed ‘nonviolent’ but still dangerous offenses.
So far, the state has transferred about 200 convicts to the custody of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents. We’ve saved millions of dollars doing this.
But there are some questions to be raised about this program and that’s why I chose to report on it. Some are coming back across the border after they’re deported. They will be even more of a burden on taxpayers: Reentry after removal has stiff consequences for felons and for good reason. If caught reentering, the returnees face a federal sentence of as much as 20 years. After that, the convict comes back to Oklahoma to finish the sentence being served at the time of their deportation.
Read up on more about the repatriation program in Monday’s edition of The Oklahoman. Also, check it out online at www.newsok.com/watchdog.
I’ve been thinking about starting an immigration-related blog, too. Shoot me an email or leave a comment if you’d be interested in reading something like this.