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COLUMN RIGHT / ELTON GALLEGLY : 'Illegals' in Jail: a Double Slap to the Taxpayer : At least 11% of L.A. County's inmates are deportable. Border security clearly needs beefing up.

August 16, 1992|ELTON GALLEGLY | Elton Gallegly is a Republican member of Congress representing the northwestern San Fernando Valley and adjacent parts of Ventura County

Supporters of unchecked illegal immigration are in a bit of a bind. To use an old newspaper line, it seems that the facts have gotten in the way of a good story.

The good story, to these people, is that the millions upon millions of illegal aliens--or undocumented immigrants, as their supporters call them--are an unmitigated blessing for our region and our country.

The facts are more sobering.

A study by Los Angeles County, endorsed by a unanimous vote of the Board of Supervisors, shows that a sizable number of the estimated 3 million illegal aliens in Southern California are criminals, many of whom prey on the poor and disadvantaged, citizen and non-citizen alike.

This study found that, at a minimum, 11% of the criminals in the Los Angeles County jail system are deportable aliens, and that processing, trying and incarcerating them costs the taxpayers at least $75.1 million a year. Actually, the cost is far higher, because the study didn't take into account enforcement costs for any of the county's city police departments, or for misdemeanor prosecutions by city attorneys.

As shocking as this cost is, even more disturbing is the fact that many of these criminal aliens, removed to their native countries by the Immigration and Naturalization Service, quickly return to the United States and as quickly return to their lives of crime.

The study tracked for one year 1,875 deportable aliens who had been identified during a May, 1990, study of the County Jail population. Although more than half were returned to their native countries, either voluntarily or through formal deportation, 41% of of the 1,875 being tracked were rearrested during the 12 months following their release from jail. In fact, those 772 defendants were arrested a total of 1,522 times during the 12 months. In all, the researchers learned, these deportable aliens had been arrested almost 11,000 times--some as far back as 1958.

Once again, it is clear that virtually unchecked illegal immigration is a crisis, and the crisis is getting worse.

Tragically, the problem is that the INS doesn't have the manpower to control the border. In addition, we keep providing incentives for people from other countries to come here illegally.

But there is a solution.

First, of course, we must increase the size of the Border Patrol. I have introduced two bills that would nearly double the number of agents in the field, one of which is targeted at recruiting already trained military personnel who are caught in the armed forces' downsizing.

We also must enforce our existing laws against hiring illegal aliens. Too many employers are flouting the law in order to hire illegals at absurdly low wages, thus depriving citizens and legal residents of jobs. In addition, well-made counterfeit "green cards" and other documents are too easily available, making it hard for employers who seek to abide by the law to ensure that their employees are legally eligible to work. That's why I have introduced legislation to provide for state-of-the-art Social Security cards and to require all non-citizen legal residents to have tamper-resistant "green cards."

Further, to reduce the incentives for illegal immigration, I have introduced legislation to prohibit illegal aliens from receiving welfare or other federal benefits, and to deny federal funds to jurisdictions that allow illegals to vote, as has been proposed for the Los Angeles school district.

We also must remove the ultimate incentive--guaranteed birthright citizenship for the children of illegal aliens. My legislation would simply bring our laws into line with virtually every other nation on Earth by requiring at least one parent to be a citizen or legal resident in order for a child to become a citizen automatically.

Finally, but not least important, we must support efforts to help poor nations improve their own economies, which will reduce the number of people seeking to come here illegally. One immediate step is to enact a fair North American free trade agreement, which will not only create new jobs in the United States but also lead to continued economic growth in Mexico.

Clearly, not all of the estimated 3.5 million people who will enter our nation illegally this year are hardened criminals. But if more evidence is needed that we must begin now to regain control over our borders, this study of the criminal element among them is surely it.

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