As with most things in life that relate to my job, I have a very pragmatic view of illegal immigration. My opinion does not stem from a dislike of immigrants. Even though I am just a dumb street cop, I am smart enough to realize that without immigrants, not only would I not exist (direct descendant of immigrants), but neither would our country. In fact, my wife is the direct result of legal immigration. My mother in-law is a first generation American born here from legal immigrant parents and my father in-law immigrated to this country legally as a young adult. I do not begrudge anyone wanting a better life for themselves and their families; quite the contrary, I respect that. What I do take issue with is how they go about it. Coincidentally, my father in-law has a much stronger opposition to illegal immigration than even I.
As a cop in California, I have much firsthand experience dealing with illegal immigrants. In one of the districts that I often find myself patrolling, there is a very large Hispanic immigrant population, much of whom are illegal. Over my career, I have come to see a pattern in this group of folks. I find the parents are predominantly hard working people who are busting their butts to provide for their family. They work long hours for ridiculously low pay (because they are illegal and being paid under the table) and sometimes work two or more jobs. Since I am addressing this issue from a law enforcement viewpoint, I will not even get into all the economic implications that the low wages have, but the effect those wages have on the family is that they struggle to get by and one, if not both parents are not around to raise the kids, but are instead working trying to support them.
Due to their low income based on their illegal wages, these families most often live in very, very low income neighborhoods. Two other things go hand in hand with very, very low income neighborhoods: crime and gangs. The children of those hard working, absent parents find themselves with lots of time and little to no supervision. Those children attend public schools in the same poor neighborhoods which is where they not surprisingly get introduced to the thug life. They start hanging around the older, tougher kids, who just happen to be gang members (in the area I work, either Norteños or Sureños). These older kids become the crappy role models, and not so surprisingly, the younger kids, as young as 10 years old, get caught up in the gang life.
Just one week ago, a 10 year old Hispanic boy was shot in a drive by shooting. He was out on the street near his home at near midnight with his two older brothers who are in their early to mid-teens. Not so shockingly, they were wearing gang attire and were heard by neighbors yelling gang related insults at the occupants of the shooter’s car, who in addition to returning insults also returned some lead. Of course, the local media was completely blind to the gang ties even as they interviewed the older brother decked out in his Norteño attire, and the news lamented how a poor innocent 10 year old became the victim of senseless violence…
Ignoring the gang correlation, there are many other law enforcement related issues. In order to get to work, one has to drive, but if you are not here legally, you cannot get a driver’s license. If you don’t have a driver’s license, you cannot get insurance. Thus, all of hard working illegal immigrants are out on a daily basis driving without a license or insurance. Just like everyone else, they get into accidents, thus raising the cost of everyone’s insurance.
Illegal immigrants often find themselves the victims of crime. Criminals specifically target them because they know the likelihood of the cops being called is vastly lower. If you are here illegally, you try and keep a low profile. You do not invite law enforcement to your home for fear of being arrested or deported.
While many illegals have a fear of deportation, that fear, while rational, is not justified. In the last 10 years or so, just being an illegal immigrant is not sufficient cause to arrest someone. In order for me to arrest an illegal immigrant, they have to have committed a fresh crime (you know, because entering the country illegally is not really a crime, I guess). Even when they are arrested for another crime, they still have no reason to fear deportation because in order to be eligible for deportation, they have to have committed a serious felony crime. Even then, the chances of actually being added to the deportation list were about 50/50. And, even if they get deported, as I have personally seen, they just come right back into the country because there is no incentive for them to stay out. There is no stiffer penalty for repeat offenders. I have seen some guys in jail being interviewed by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) who were just deported not more than two weeks prior and they are already back in the country and some 500 miles north of the border.
As a citizen and taxpayer in the People’s Republik of California, I also have the great distinction of living in a state that boasts “sanctuary cities”, the state that now allows illegal immigrants to legally get a state issued driver’s license (not sure how that works since in order for me to get one, I had to provide proof of who I was and since most illegals lack that, it perplexes me), they can collect all sorts of public benefits such as welfare, AFDC, WIC, food stamps (now affectionately known as “Cal-Fresh”, applications in any language imaginable – CalFresh Program website), and section 8 housing benefits. Not too long ago, law enforcement in California was notified by the state government that on the orders of Governor Moonbeam, we now have to accept Mexican Consulate identification cards as valid identification. I find that extremely peculiar since we do not accept any other consulate issued identification as valid ID. I am by no means insinuating that the Jerry Brown and the Democrats are pandering to the illegal Mexican immigrants in an effort to buy votes, I am saying that outright!
Illegal immigration has many profound, detrimental effects both on society and on the illegal immigrants. Many of those effects are not law enforcement related, but go far deeper. I empathize with parents wanting a better life for their kids. What parent doesn’t? The difference, like most things in life, is how we go about it. There is a right way and a wrong way. The ends do not justify the means. Immigrating to this country the right way pays off in far more ways than one.