NEWS

Specter: Deport Convicted Illegal Immigrants

By Matthew Harwood

Illegal immigrants convicted of crimes should be deported because of the financial burden of incarcerating them and their high rate of recidivism, Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA) said yesterday.

In a speech at Chester County Prison, outside Philadelphia, Specter argued that the county's plight is illustrative of a nationwide problem. Chester County spends $1.7 million to imprison convicted illegal immigrants.

The problems go beyond mere costs though, according to Specter.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports:

Among the difficulties Specter cited were a shortage of beds for immigrants facing removal, inaccurate recordkeeping, and problems compelling their native countries to repatriate them.

Of 774,112 illegal aliens apprehended nationwide between 2003 and 2006, 36 percent were released because of shortages in processing personnel, bed space, and the funding needed to detain them while their immigration status was adjudicated, according to [a report from the Department of Homeland Security's inspector general].

Specter said he would like to see the secretary of state use her power to limit visas to those nations that do not readily take back convicted aliens. He also suggested withholding foreign aid from countries that were uncooperative.

Lastly, Specter believes district attorneys should have the power to include deportation language in plea bargains in return for lesser sentences.

University of Pennsylvania Law School professor Sarah Paoletti, director of Penn's Transnational Legal Clinic, says there are problems with this approach, however reasonable.

One important barrier is language. Illegal immigrant defendants may sign documents they don't readily understand and have no knowledge of the unforeseen consequences, she said. For example, persons deported from the United States cannot seek legal reentry for ten years.

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