Cost to the California Criminal Justice System of Illegal Immigration
The illegal immigration debate in the United States has taken center stage recently because the President and Congress have decided that is finally time to deal with the situation. Although there have been many stated solutions, it seems that no one can reach a conclusion that is satisfactory to all. In the past year the President has signed an executive order that allowed young illegals of a certain age who were brought to the United States as children, meaning that they had no illegal intent as they were just being moved their by their guardians, were eligible for an amnesty program which would set them on the road to citizenship. This sounded reasonable to a majority of the American public since it is difficult to punish a child for what its parents do, but it does nothing to get at the crux of the debate which centers around cost.
The cost issue comes into play when it is realized that most illegal immigrants do not pay taxes, but they are the beneficiaries of programs that require tax dolls. There is also a cost to the courts system because the incidence of crime increases when there are a high number of illegal immigrants in a district. The solution to this issue could be either to make these people legal and ensure that they do pay their fair share of taxes, or to deport them There is little being discussed between these two extremes. The second is very popular with tax payers because of the increased burden and the crowded conditions in schools, healthcare centers and jails. To examine this issue in its entirety, this paper looks at the crime statistics, total costs associated with illegal immigration, and what is being done about the problem.
Crime and Illegal Immigration
The criminal costs of illegal immigration can be seen in what it really costs to hold and try an illegal immigrant in a court of law in California, but it is more accurate to look at all the factors that are involved. Because there are more illegal immigrants in California than in any other state, more law enforcement officers are required to police the actions of these additional people. That means that more vehicles must be bought, county jails with a greater capacity must be built, more money is spent on such things as food and clothing for the inmates, the costs to other citizens of robberies and other crimes, and other considerations which go far beyond just a simple cost analysis to the courts. This would be true if any, legal or illegal group of citizens, flooded an area. However, research proves that illegal immigration to the United States costs more because there is an increase in crime.
In the 1980's great numbers of emigrants from Cuba were seeing refuge in Southern Florida. Because this seemed to be a trend that he could not stop, Fidel Castro supported the effort by allowing hardened criminals out of jail and providing them with rickety transportation to Florida. The United States and Florida considered these individuals refugees and was more than willing to rescue them from Castro's communist regime. The problem was that, as was mentioned, many of these individuals were released from prisons (some being there for lesser crimes and political issues) and sent to the United States so that Castro and the Cuban people could be rid of them. When the U.S. found this out, many of the boats were either rerouted, or all of the people were made to go through extensive criminal background checks to make sure that they were not sent her on Castro's "program."
The Cuban refugees were, most often, easy to spot and reroute or divert to a temporary holding facility pending investigation, but it is more difficult to do this with immigrants from South and Central America who come overland. The reason for this is the border with Mexico is very long, and the people have a much better chance of evading capture. So, the people who come into the United States illegally into California are less likely to be checked for prior criminal affiliation. This is especially problematic seeing the drastic rise in drug-associated criminal activity presently going on in Mexico.
The states of California has a greater financial stake in illegal immigration than any state in the union by far. This total state cost is estimated at more than $21 billion per year (FAIR, 2012). That means, every single non-illegal immigrant in the state pays and addition $1,183 per year due to the amount of illegal immigrants in the state (Longley, 2004). While this may not seem like a large number, it basically adds up to paying $100 a month, this is money that could be used in other ways for that individual's family or for growing the economy in some way. And this is not even an accurate figure. This accounts for every non-illegal immigrant citizen in the state, which means children, about one third of residents, cannot be counted. When the numbers are redone and only tax payers are considered, the cost rises to almost $2,000 per year, or $170 per month. The real sad part of this is that these are 2003 numbers from a FAIR study (Longley, 2004). Which means that these costs have likely risen to at least some degree, and probably to a rather large degree.
The costs mentioned above account for all expenses that could be realized from the increase in services required by such a large population, but it is necessary to limit this expenditure to crime costs for this section. Of course, the act of an "undocumented worker" crossing the border into the United States is a federal crime. This has its associated costs such a border patrol agents, court costs, housing and feeding those who are caught, and many other small expenses. However, these costs are small compared to how the issue affects crime on a large scale. The most common of these crimes are "working, faking identity, using fake or stolen social security numbers, carrying fraudulent driver licenses or driving without a license and/or insurance, and evading income taxes" (Blondell, 2008). On the job front, the industry most at fault for employing illegal workers is agriculture. Specifically, many of these undocumented workers are picking fruits and vegetables in the central valley of California. Many have argues that this is a necessary contingent for the United States because these are people who will work for a very low wage and do jobs that most Americans find distasteful. However, a recent study discovered that
"the average household spends just $357 a year on fruits and vegetables. For every dollar spent, just 18 cents go to the farmer and one third of that cost goes to the migrant laborer. Even if costs for farm workers increased 40%, the total increase in cost per household would be about $8 a year. A $1.80 head of lettuce would increase in price by, at most, 10 cents" (Blondell, 2008).
This, then, demonstrates the fallacy of the argument that illegal workers are needed to pick the produce that Americans consume. It is also more likely, since the advent of the financial crisis, that more people would be willing to work in the fields if it meant that they had a job. The fact of the matter is that the crime is not just committed by the worker, but the farmer or business person who knowingly hires an illegal worker. Many advocacy groups have suggested that this is where the healing for this issue needs to happen (FAIR, 2012).
Across the United States, the cost of housing criminals is staggering. But, the issue of illegal immigration makes it just that much worse. "In 2003, there were approximately 46,000 criminal aliens in federal prisons, at a cost of $1.3 billion. That same year, approximately 74,000 illegal aliens resided in state prisons at a cost of $880 million, with approximately 147,000 individuals in local jails" (Blair, 2011). This number, of course, increases every year, and there is no end in sight. Many of these individuals are in detention facilities awaiting deportation, but a lot of them have committed crimes in the United States and they have to serve their time before they can be deported. Also, there is no certainty that after they have been to prison in the United States that they will be allowed to return to their country of origin (Blair, 2011). This means that the U.S. either allow the person to stay, pay expensive fees to get them to their home country, or keep them in jail indefinitely. Unfortunately, the latter has happened to some who are have no place else to go.
The reason that some people are just kept in jail is also because of the likelihood that they will be back again very soon. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) conducted a study in which…
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