Alien Criminals: Jail or Deport?

By Mark Krikorian on January 6, 2010

An illegal-alien cop-killer was arrested this morning in Utah. He faces the death penalty, and I'm all for that. But this part of the story raises a question for policymakers:

Roman, apparent in the country illegally, has a significant criminal history, beginning in 1992 with a misdemeanor drug distribution charge to which he pleaded guilty in Fillmore.

Then in 1996 and 1997, Roman was charged in Millard County with a handful of felonies in two different cases, including drug charges, receiving stolen property and a weapons count.

He pleaded guilty to one count of third-degree felony drug possession and one count of second-degree felony drug possession with intent to distribute.

On Sept. 15, 1998, Roman was released into the custody of immigration authorities and deported.

Of course, he should have been deported in 1992 after his first brush with the law. But after his felony convictions he served a year or so of his prison sentence and was then deported. The question is, how to best keep scum like this off America's streets — keep them in prison for their full sentences (which in this case was 15 years, according to a Utah law enforcement source), at a high costs to our taxpayers, or save money by deporting them quickly, raising the possibility of their re-entry. Handing alien criminals over to immigration before the conclusion of their sentences is becoming more common as states look for ways to cut costs; Marketplace did a radio story on this just a couple days ago regarding Arizona.

I think you can make a case either way, but the option of early release for deportation is only defensible if we're also taking all possible steps to prevent the criminals' return — mandatory electronic verification of all new hires, no driver's licenses for illegals, state and local cooperation in routine immigration enforcement (to identify and boot out illegals before they commit non-immigration felonies), etc. You can't say you want to keep out illegal-alien murderers but let in illegal-alien dishwashers.

Utah is notorious for encouraging illegal immigration — giving illegals driver's licenses and in-state tuition, among other things. In the words of former Rep. Chris Cannon, upon accepting an award from MALDEF: "We love immigrants in Utah. And we don't make the distinction very often between legal and illegal." Given that, Utah can't complain when it releases alien criminals early for deportation and then finds they've returned — the state's own policies (as well as the feds') have ensured this would happen.

(Here is more on the fallen officer, a mother of two.)