Feb 27, 2009

Latinos Have a Growth Spurt -- in Prison


I was recently astounded to learn, from a study by the respected Pew Research Center, that in 2007 Latinos accounted for about 40% of people convicted of federal crimes.  As a result, nearly 1/3 of all federal prisoners in 2007 were Latino.  During the period between 1991 and 2007, the number of Latinos convicted of federal crimes increased from just under 8,000 to nearly 30,000.

Have Latinos suddenly become more lawless?  Not at all.  Nearly half of the Latinos convicted of federal crimes in 2007 were convicted of immigration offenses.  Thus, what the dramatic increases really reflect are a far greater number of illegal immigrants -- and greater enforcement of immigration laws.

We often hear claims, many of them specious, that Latinos are a drain on community and economic resources.  But I've never heard people who call for greater enforcement of immigration laws talk about the costs of finding, prosecuting, defending, and housing so many Latino inmates in prison.  How many violent offenders remain free because law enforcement resources are diverted to enforcement of immigration laws?  The huge increase in Latino prisoners is just another sign that our country's immigration policies are in drastic need of repair.