Reflecting on Alien Prisoner Drug Offender Sentence Reductions

By Dan Cadman on May 12, 2017

Several times previously I've spoken about "criminal justice reform" as it relates to alien felons and drug offenders, and in less-than-glowing terms (see here, here, and here) because it seemed then, and seems to me now, that where alien criminals are concerned, the "reforms" are just one more way our government proves it isn't serious about border control — because many of the aliens benefiting from such reforms, whether via legislation or amendment of sentencing guidelines to provide for retroactive downward departures, are cross-border violators and drug traffickers who got caught moving their packages of death into our country.

The United States Sentencing Commission (USSC) has very recently issued its "U.S. Sentencing Commission 2014 Drug Guidelines Amendment Retroactivity Data Report". The introduction explains the relevance of the report, and why data is only now being released:

On April 30, 2014, the Commission submitted to Congress an amendment to the federal sentencing guidelines that revised the guidelines applicable to drug trafficking offenses. ... Amendment 782 became effective on November 1, 2014.

On July 18, 2014, the Commission voted to give retroactive effect to Amendment 782 beginning on the effective date of the amendment. The Commission also voted to require that courts not release any offender whose term of imprisonment was reduced pursuant to retroactive application of Amendment 782 prior to November 1, 2015. ...

The data in this report represents information concerning motions for a reduced sentence pursuant to the retroactive application of Amendment 782. The data in this report reflects all motions decided through March 31, 2017, and for which court documentation was received, coded, and edited at the Commission by April 27, 2017.

For the curious, a full copy of the report can be found here, but for the purposes of this blog post, my interests are confined solely to Table 5: "Demographic Characteristics of Offenders Who Received Sentence Reduction Due to Application of Retroactive Drug Guidelines Amendment". The table does nothing to persuade me that my earlier views were mistaken.

As you look at it, let your eye wander down the left-hand column until you come to the citizen/noncitizen section. Of the total of 29,790 federal prisoners whose sentences were reduced under the 2014 guideline reductions that were captured for this report, 7,155 — nearly one in every four — were aliens.

Now, if you move your eye to the right, you will see that of those 7,155 aliens, 2,895 (more than 35 percent) of them were convicted for crimes involving powder or crack cocaine; another 2,820 (or nearly 30 percent) were convicted for methamphetamines.

A glance at Table 1 in the full report (not reproduced in isolation here, but available in the full report) also shows that a significant proportion of the cases resulting in these sentencing reductions came about in regions proximate to the southern border, such as the southern, western, eastern and northern districts of Texas.

While pondering these facts and figures, keep in mind that for U.S. Attorneys to be willing to charge individuals, any individuals, in federal court in the first place, they are almost always involved in trafficking multi-pounds or kilos, or thousands of pills, of their illicit drug products.

Thus it seems likely that many of the aliens who have been the happy recipients of this largesse were narcotics traffickers who were caught smuggling a significant amount of drugs across our international border. This just doesn't seem to me like any kind of common sense "reform".