Responding to legislation pending in Florida, Politifact last month wanted to determine
whether undocumented immigrants were committing a crime by just being in the country.
According to legal experts, the answer is that most of the time, unlawful presence is not a crime.
When we checked with the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops, Michele M. Taylor, the group’s associate director for communications, pointed to the 2012 Supreme Court case Arizona vs. United States. The majority opinion found that "as a general rule, it is not a crime for a removable alien to remain present in the United States."
Individuals who are unlawfully in the United States of America, most commonly by overstaying a visa, have committed a mere civil offense and are removed from the country and prohibited from entering for a specific period of time. Persons who have unlawfully entered the USA, however, have committed a criminal offense, though only a misdemeanor.
On Sunday in Indianapolis, a shared-ride vehicle pulled over to the side of the road and the driver and the passenger exited, whereupon
The car and the men were struck by a Ford F-150. One of the men was thrown into the center lane and was spotted, along with wreckage from the damaged vehicle, by a passing state trooper. As he slowed to stop for the crash, he struck the body in the center lane, officials said.
Before tweeting (the personal touch) his condolences to the family of the victim, President Trump tweeted “So disgraceful that a person illegally in our country killed @Colts linebacker Edwin Jackson. This is just one of many such preventable tragedies. We must get the Dems to get tough on the Border, and with illegal immigration, FAST!”
The President said nothing about the police officer. The driver of the Ford was 37-year Old Manuel Orrego-Savala, who gave an alias at the scene and was booked at the county jail for driving without a license and suspicion of drunken driving. A citizen of Guatemala, he been deported in 2007 and in 2009, then sometime thereafter illegally re-entered the USA. Immigration officials have lodged a detainer. Also
US Immigration and Customs Enforcement released a statement late Monday saying Orrego-Savala was previously convicted of driving under the influence in Redwood City, California, in 2005. He has other "misdemeanor criminal convictions and arrests in California and Indiana," the ICE statement said.
We don't know yet the circumstances of those "criminal convictions and arrests" in California and Indian. However, the bill introduced in the Florida House which gave rise to the Politifact analysis would "heighten the penalties for certain violent offenses -- including sexual battery, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, murder, and the use of a destructive device such as a bomb -- if the defendant was in the country illegally."
Opponents of the legislation argued (accurately) that being in the country illegally is not a "crime." But there is no reason that a state should not authorize an enhanced penalty for an individual who commits a criminal offense while in the country illegally.We apply that principle to hate crimes, in which various states and the federal government include enhanced penalties for bias-related crimes.
Hate crimes are considered particularly egregious- despite reasonable objections from civil libertarians- because of their impact upon the community, as well as upon the individual. In many instances, incarcerating illegal immigrants rather than deporting them- after which they may return to the USA- or releasing them would often serve the interests of the community.
This won't happen, of course. Activists for comprehensive immigration reform will not be pleased if immigrants, even those who entered the country illegally, were jailed. The right loves the symbol of a wall and the ability to shut the memory of Mexicans and other people from their mind. But problems can't be wished away, and if Manuel Orrego-Salva had been incarcerated for earlier offenses, there might be one more pro football player alive today.