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November 20, 2007

"Catch and Release" Replaced with "Zero Tolerance" in Laredo

The CBP in Laredo started Operation Streamline-Laredo, a zero-tolerance campaign that prosecutes, jails and deports nearly every adult illegal immigrant that border agents catch, on October 30.

The judge repeatedly warned the immigrants — some of whom had been detained up to 10 times but not charged — that an arrest for a second offense could result in a more serious felony charge and a longer jail sentence.

''This whole thing about them catching you and sending you back isn't going to happen anymore," the magistrate warned.

During one morning session, it took about three hours for 79 immigrants to make their first appearance before the magistrate, plead guilty and receive sentences ranging from time served to 45 days in jail. Most of them pleaded to illegal entry, a misdemeanor.

I support the zero tolerance policy, but I don't think it's going to last very long; Laredo jails are already at capacity only twenty days into the program. I'm also hesitant to support procedures that come perilously close to violating due process:

The immigrants...were escorted up to the judge's bench in groups of 18 or 20. After a Border Patrol officer read a charge that applied to the entire group, each immigrant called out ''Culpable" — the Spanish word for guilty.

I elided some pro-illegal heartstings-tugging language (if you really want to vomit, go read the paragraph above the one I quoted). From the description, judicial process for these folks has become almost perfunctory; that is, illegals are not getting adequate representation or judicial attention. A just result is meaningless if it is reached by unjust means.

The fact that these folks are patently guilty does not absolve the U.S. government from giving them fair judicial process. In fact, that they are so obviously guilty means that CBP and the folks at the Laredo courthouse should have no trouble providing it.

Immigration enforcement is costly. Trying to do it on the cheap makes a mockery of justice. "Catch and release" started, not because DHS is pro-illegal immigrant (I've spent too much time in the ICE offices to believe that), but because there wasn't enough resources allocated to detaining and removing illegals. Laredo is about to find that out.

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posted by Gabriel Malor at 01:41 PM

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