Recently in Immigration Category

April 14, 2010

Guilty Pleas and Non-Citizens

Most people convicted of crimes have plead guilty rather than gone to trial.  Before pleading guilty, however, defendants understandably want to know what the punishment will be.  In recent years, courts have differed as to whether defense lawyers have to inform non-citizens that they are subject to deportation if they are convicted.  In Padilla v. Kentucky (2010) the U.S. Supreme Court put the debate to bed by deciding by a vote of 7-2 that defense lawyers have an obligation to advise non-citizens that a guilty plea might result in deportation.

The outcome of Padilla makes it more likely that defendants will understand the true ramifications of a conviction before pleading guilty.  On the other hand it may increase the workload of the courts by reducing the number of cases ending with guilty pleas.  In an era when convictions even for minor drug offenses can result in deportation (not only of illegal immigrants but also resident aliens), non-citizen defendants may figure that they have nothing to gain and everything to lose by pleading guilty. 

February 27, 2009

Latinos Have a Growth Spurt -- in Prison

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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.