Thursday, June 08, 2006

Bucher's Immigration Plan: What's the Point?

In light of his discovery that 77 undocumented immigrants have been paroled in Wisconsin since 2003, Paul Bucher has announced a new “illegal immigrant violent crime plan.”

Bucher asserts that by asking federal authorities for a memorandum of understanding (MOU), state agents can begin to enforce federal immigration laws alongside federal agents. Bucher points to three other states who have agreements like this with the federal government: Florida, Alabama, and Arizona (Georgia plans to submit a MOU by 2007). One county in North Carolina and several jails in California also have MOU agreements.

Bucher calls his plan “very unusual,” and on that much we agree.

In the Florida and Alabama agreements, the MOU is aimed at training state agents to identify undocumented immigrants in their daily operations. For example, providing a state trooper with training to figure out if a driver or passenger is an undocumented immigrant in a routine traffic stop. Immigrant groups have shown alarm at these arrangements because of concern that profiling will ensue. As one Latino leader put it: “We are definitely afraid that people out there will be pulled over or stopped for driving while Latino.”

In Arizona, the MOU agreement is to train prison employees on how to determine whether foreign national inmates have committed any immigration violations, which are duties that are usually handled by federal immigration officers in state prisons. This is the same type of agreement that has been made with Mecklenburg County in North Carolina and a few jails in California.

Bucher’s plan is sort of a hybrid of these two types of agreements that currently exist -- it doesn't focus on the general public like the agreements in Florida and Alabama, yet it doesn't conduct its operations inside of corrections facilities like the Arizona, Mecklenburg County, and California jails agreements.

By combining the two, Bucher has made the scope so narrow it really seems pointless.

The aim of the Bucher plan is to train state agents to “micro-target” undocumented immigrants who have been paroled after committing violent crimes. Bucher insists that the targeting would not go after all undocumented immigrants, which is the intent of the Florida and Alabama agreements, but rather just those who are on parole.

Yet, if on parole, it means these people have already been in the corrections system for some time. The goal of the Arizona, Mecklenburg County, and California jails agreements are to identify inmates who are undocumented immigrants, which seems like the best time to engage in such identification because the targets are locked up.

Plus, if we already know these parolees are undocumented immigrants – something that was probably discovered when they were in prison – what exactly is the point of tracking them down once they are on parole?

As I mentioned in a post earlier, federal agents already investigate every single case of an undocumented immigrant in prison to determine if deportation is an option. In many cases it is, in some cases it is not. Every undocumented immigrant inmate the feds want, they get. Out of the 77 undocumented parolees Bucher identified, 42 were turned over to federal authorities, which means the other 35 either couldn’t be deported or otherwise weren’t of interest to federal authorities.

So what exactly is the purpose of Bucher’s new plan?

Bucher claims: “We need to give the feds assistance and some of our resources to perform this function that is so necessary to our public safety as a state.”

But if all of the people we are going to go after have already been identified as undocumented immigrants and, subsequently, reviewed by federal authorities, what possible assistance could the state provide to federal immigration authorities once the undocumented immigrants are paroled that it couldn’t when they were in prison?

Is deportation all of a sudden going to become an option when these people are on parole? If so, then this plan amounts to tracking around 15-20 new parolees per year to see if they slip up in such a way that allows the feds to deport them (and wouldn’t it then make the most sense to train parole officers, not separate state agents?).

All of the other MOU agreements are about identifying undocumented immigrants who have not already been identified as such, whether in prison or not. The Bucher plan, however, seems to be about tracking down parolees who have already been identified as undocumented immigrants and reviewed by federal immigration officials for possible deportation.

Does that make any sense?

The more Bucher describes his plan, the more it becomes clear it’s nothing more than a campaign stunt that plays off public concern about undocumented immigration.


Blogger Jessica McBride said...

You are completely missing the point. His plan isn't to only go after parolees. It's to go after illegal immigrants with serious criminal records still in Wisconsin. The parolee # was just a tiny snapshot. There were 1,100 illegal immigrants in state prison last year alone, many with extremely long felony records, to give you an idea of the scope of the problem, and that doesn't even count those on probation and parole, in county jails, and already released either on parole or just at the end of their sentences for various serious crimes. So you are mistating the nature of what he's proposing to do.

June 11, 2006  
Blogger Jessica McBride said...

I mean misSTATING. Typed too fast.

June 11, 2006  
Blogger Seth Zlotocha said...


Here are a couple lines from Paul's explanation of the plan: "I would use this authority to micro-target those illegal immigrants in this state who are violent criminals and felons - cocaine dealers, gangbangers, murderers, child molesters, and the like.

"I would not use this authority to go after all illegal immigrants or those who are in this country just trying to provide for their families."

In order to be considered a "violent criminal" or "felon" a person must be in prison, on parole or probation, or finished serving a sentence.

If in prison, federal agents already have the authority and duty to investigate cases of immigration violations. Currently in Wisconsin, federal agents review every single case where an undocumented immigrant is in prison. Is Paul suggesting the state of Wisconsin should take over this authority and duty? If so, why? Is there evidence that the feds are doing a bad job?

I already discussed the parole scenario in my post (and the scenario for probation is virtually the same as the one for parole), so I'll move right to those who have served their sentences. If these people are "cocaine dealers, gangbangers, murderers, child molesters, and the like" it's almost guaranteed they spent time in prison where their case was already reviewed by federal agents. For whatever reason, the feds didn't want them. They served their sentence and were released. What exactly are state agents going to do to them once they track them down? If they were deportable, then that would've (or at least should've) been done when they were in prison. Why go through the inefficient process of convicting them, reviewing their case for deportation, letting them serve out their sentence, releasing them, and then going to track them down to deport them? It doesn't make any sense.

Rather than encourage an inefficient system -- if, in fact, the feds are unjustfiably passing on undocumented immigrants who have committed violent crimes and could be deported -- why not simply propose putting pressure on the feds to do their job? Why reinforce the inefficiencies, which are the root cause of the alleged danger to society, by enabling them? Plus, while the state agents can get the authority to track down and arrest an undocumented immigrant via a MOU, it's still up to the feds to actually deport them. If the feds passed on the opportunity to do this while the undocumented immigrants were initially in custody, why would they do it after the sentence was served?

Any way you slice the plan, it appears like nothing more than an attempt to play off the public hysteria over undocumented immigration. Every other state or local MOU is aimed at identifying undocumented immigrants for the first time -- there appears to be no sensible purpose for a MOU to track down people who have already been through the correctional system, identified as undocumented immigrants, and, subsequently, reviewed for deportation.

June 11, 2006  

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