By John F. Di Leo -
On Wednesday, July 1, 2015, a young American woman – Kathryn Steinle, age 32 – was shot in the back as she and her father were strolling on a pier in San Francisco. She died in his arms, pleading “Help me, help me!”
The facts in the case are plain, and undisputed. We don’t even need to fill the story with the adverb “allegedly,” since the demon who did it has admitted to have done it (though he claims it was accidental, in alternate moments claiming either that the gun went off on its own or that he was just “shooting at seals” for fun, but missed… as if tourists at a viewing pier in San Francisco are allowed to take pot shots at the seals).
The villain, Francisco Sanchez, has at least seven felony convictions for drug trafficking (so yes, we would call him a demon even if he hadn’t killed Miss Steinle; he’s killed plenty of addicts by dealing their drugs). He has been deported five times. He was caught and released by the city of San Francisco because it’s a “sanctuary city,” a city that attracts illegal foreign criminals because it’s on record promising to shelter them from immigration authorities. There’s even a shocker about the gun he used; it’s reported to be a handgun that was either stolen from, or misplaced by, a federal agent last year.
Oh yes, there’s much to say about this case.
A Cornucopia of Issues
The case is rightly bringing the outrageous issue of sanctuary cities to the forefront of debate. When our big cities are hotbeds of crime already – gang-infested, drug-addled, awash in the blood of murder and rape and mugging and armed robbery – why would they put out a welcome mat for even more criminals?
Why let them go, when they catch them, flouting federal law? Why turn a dangerous criminal loose into society, as San Francisco did this spring, by catching Francisco Sanchez and letting him go, free to kill Kathryn Steinle on a sightseeing pier? Yes, sanctuary cities must be stopped; their city fathers must be held accountable for the crimes committed by the criminals they keep setting free.
The case is also, rightly, bringing into focus the nature of our illegal alien problem. While there are many decent, hardworking, well-intentioned people among these immigrants, so frustrated by the lack of opportunity in their home countries that they risk violating our laws to grab a piece of the American Dream (no, we mustn’t accept it, but we can understand it), the flood of illegal aliens is also populated with incredible numbers of criminals. Our open borders are importing a broad mix of people – willing workers seeking the American Dream, loafers seeking the cushy American welfare state, and criminals, seeking a new population of 300 million ready marks.
A rational immigration system would differentiate between the three; our current system allows the latter two to spoil the mix and poison the American electorate’s opinion even of the first.
And the case is also bringing to the fore an issue oft-discussed and decried: the ludicrously short sentences we mete out in punishment for those convicted of crimes. It’s almost impossible to bring a case to trial in our overloaded cities, still more difficult to get a conviction. By the time someone is finally convicted of anything, he has probably been breaking the law for years.
The robbery, rape, mugging or drug deal for which we finally got a conviction was likely his tenth, or twentieth, or fiftieth crime. We need to punish appropriately, but we don’t – we let them go with time served, or after mere months of a multi-year sentence. Our nation’s sentencing must get tougher; there is no excuse for a known violent criminal being allowed back on the streets, while he’s still healthy enough to do it again.
As awful as this horrific killing was, the silver lining is that, at last, some people are paying attention to these issues, people who hadn’t before. We see a murder, we learn that the criminal was caught and convicted again and again, and yet, released again and again, and we ask why. Like the late Miss Steinle, we call out to our politicians, “Help us!” Solve this problem. Seal these borders. Lock up these convicts and throw away the key. Help us!
The Revolving Door of the United States Border
But perhaps the most disturbing issue about this case is the determination of most Americans to remain locked in an 18th century mindset on the question of what to do with illegal alien criminals, once caught.
Think about this:
The man was deported five times. Yes, five times that we’re sure of. Five times that the government has admitted to.
And part of the media uproar in the wake of this murder is the shouted demand “Why Wasn’t He Deported Again???”
Why on earth is that their question? Deporting him five times didn’t help; he just walked back, or rode back, or flew back, or sailed back, again and again, as hundreds of thousands do, all the time. We have somewhere between 20 and 40 million illegal aliens, at large throughout in the United States, and of these at least 350,000 are known to be convicted criminals.
We deport them, and they return. We deport them again, and they return again. Why in the world is deportation still used in this day and age?
The Changing Face of Transportation
Two or three centuries ago, travel was difficult. Dirt roads were full of muddy ruts, carriage wheels would get stuck, horses would break a leg tripping in a pothole. Inter-continental travel was, for most people, a once-in-a-lifetime decision: a transatlantic crossing might last months, most would sicken and many would die of illness in transit. Even just a century ago, in the age of the Titanic and the Lusitania, only the rich would travel from country to country on a regular basis. For all but the rich, it was a matter of permanent migration.
In those days, deportation worked. If you sent someone back home to Europe, or Asia, or South America, they stayed there. Deportation was a reasonable approach to the problem of border-jumpers and minor foreign criminals. Once you ejected them, they were unlikely to return.
The advances of the 20th century changed all that. Distances have shortened as transportation has improved. You can accomplish in days what used to take weeks or months. There are daily ferries and cruise ships, hourly airplanes and buses, travelling in and out of the United States at low cost and general comfort. And there’s so much commercial transport now, if one is willing to sacrifice that comfort, one can be a stowaway in a truck or ship or bus. You can deport in the morning and have the criminal back on our soil by nightfall, and don’t think it doesn’t happen!
Conservatives often remind society that there are many timeless truths, timeless approaches. The great Pope Benedict XVI was ushered into office on the power of his stirring sermon in favor of constant truths and in opposition to moral relativism. Our own Framers wrote a Constitution to last the test of time; the brilliant structure and clear limits of our Constitution remain a splendid plan today, 228 years after it was written. Recognizing this, conservatives sometimes get an undue reputation for sticking with the ways of the past.
But this is untrue. In fact, the American Right opposes the Left’s rejection of “all that is old on principle” – the Right opposes the Left’s advocacy of “change for the sake of change”… but that does not mean that the Right is stuck in the past.
In fact, the American Right can tell the difference between timeless truths and technological changes. The Right can and does advocate updating policy to preserve the spirit of the law and the spirit of the American Way. If deportation is no longer appropriate or effective as a tool for respecting our borders and fighting crime, it is long past time to look for other solutions.
Deportation is simply no longer a logical tool. Our nation spends millions on bus fare, train fare, and plane fare, every year, just to send people to a border that they’ll jump again as soon as we shut our eyes. It’s a waste of time and money. Over the past hundred years, deportation has gone from being a tool to being nothing but an incredibly expensive placebo. And somehow, our nation’s thinkers have failed to notice the change.
Alternatives to Deportation
When a person commits a crime on United States soil, that person is our problem. Merely returning him to his country of origin has proven to be pointless, as that country may not take him, may accept him and then release him, may even accept him and then facilitate his return to the United States. There ARE countries, after all, that just view the USA as a handy dumping ground for their own problem populations, no matter whether those problems are the unemployed, the unemployable or the criminal.
We can build the long-promised “virtual wall” along our southern border… a combination of walls and fences and minefields and electrified barriers. It’s not perfect, but it’s a start. By making it harder to cross for the first time, we’re also making it harder to cross for the second, third, fourth, and fifth.
We can enforce existing immigration law, which would dissuade more newcomers from flouting the law and entering in the first place, ahead of those honorable immigrants who wait their turn and do it right.
And we can have a separate, and tougher, criminal justice approach for illegal immigrants than the one we have for citizens.
Don’t think that’s some groundbreaking proposal, by the way. We ALREADY have numerous criminal justice approaches today. The nation has always had courts administered by the military for our servicemen, courts administered by Customs for international trade violations, military tribunals for POWs and other foreign criminals caught in conjunction with a war. And so too, we have a special criminal justice approach for illegal aliens.
The problem is that our criminal justice approach for illegals is easier on them than is the system we administer to citizens!
- An American citizen convicted of robbery, drug dealing, rape or murder gets sentenced to time served, or to a short or long sentence in a state or federal prison.
- But an illegal alien convicted of such crimes is often merely deported, which is often tantamount to being set free… and often, they don’t even bother to try the case; illegal aliens apprehended in conjunction with crimes are frequently just deported immediately, the case closed without trial because deportation – theoretically – rendered a trial unnecessary.
Honestly, is this a sane approach? Does this double standard – try and imprison the citizen criminal, set the illegal alien criminal free – make any sense at all? I’m no advocate for the American criminal element, but honestly, wouldn’t they have a right to object to such unequal treatment?
It is time to turn it around, and be tougher on the illegal alien criminals. Deportation should be limited to people who have overstayed their visas but committed no other crimes. If someone is a burglar, put him in jail. A drug dealer? Put him in jail. A mugger? Put him in jail. A murderer, violent rapist, child molester, or armed robber? Execute him.
As long as the criminal element knows that the USA is easier on foreign criminals that we are on our own homegrown criminals, we will remain a target destination for the world’s worst criminals.
Only if we turn around this reputation, and return to the good sense of a nation that values its law-abiding citizens more than its gate-crashing villains, only then will the criminals of the world learn that America is no place for them.
Only when we eliminate deportation, and return to the time-honored punishments of the cellblock and the executioner’s hood, will we finally be on track toward making America a safe and prosperous nation once again.
Copyright 2015 John F. Di Leo
John F. Di Leo is a Chicago-based international trade compliance trainer. A former leader of the Ethnic American Council and Chicagoland chapter of Young Americans for Freedom in the 1980s, and a county chairman of the Milwaukee Republican Party in the 1990s, his columns are regularly found in Illinois Review.
Permission is hereby granted to forward freely, provided it is uncut and the IR URL and byline are included. Follow John F. Di Leo on Facebook or LinkedIn, or on Twitter at @johnfdileo, or on his own website at JohnFDiLeo.com.