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A New Mandatory Minimum for Illegal Immigration is a Costly Bad Idea

in Criminal Justice, Immigration, Liberator Online, News You Can Use by Jackson Jones Comments are off

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

Senate Republicans plan to bring to legislation to the floor in September that will target so-called “sanctuary cities” that provide a safe haven for illegal immigrants. The bill, according to a Politico report last month, “would block funding for cities and other local governments that decline to cooperate with federal immigration officials.”

mandatory minimum  sentencingThere’s a recent wrinkle in that a) doesn’t make much sense and b) could undermine efforts in Congress to reform America’s criminal justice system. In response to the tragic murder of Kate Steinle at the hands of an illegal immigrant, some members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, including Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, want this proposal attached to the sanctuary cities bill.

“Kate’s Law” would require a mandatory minimum sentence of five years for any immigrant who re-enters the United States illegally. Those who are lobbying for the measure, either professionally or through citizen activism, don’t seem to understand the costs associated with housing federal prisoners.

On average, the annual price tag for incarcerating a federal inmate is around $30,000. Multiplied by five years; that’s $150,000 to incarcerate someone who those pushing for the bill don’t want here, anyway.

Greg Newburn of Families Against Mandatory Minimums notes that this isn’t a small sum, given the number of people incarcerated for illegal re-entry in the most recent fiscal year for which data are available. “According to the U.S. Sentencing Commission, 16,556 offenders were sentenced for illegal reentry in FY 2014,” Newburn writes, ” 98.6% of those offenders were sentenced to prison; the average sentence was 17 months.”

“If they all received five-year mandatory minimums rather than the average sentences of 17 months, new incarceration costs would be $1.78 billion per year. That’s nearly $2 billion that could be spent on finding, arresting, and prosecuting violent undocumented immigrants that will instead have to be spent on incarcerating people [who’ve re-entered the United States illegally],” he added.

Not only does “Kate’s law” fail to make any fiscal sense, it could undermine movement on criminal justice reform, which is currently a topic of serious discussion in both chambers of Congress. Much of the logic behind this effort is that there are too many people in prison and mass incarceration is too expensive.

Although he’s been a reluctant participant, Grassley led discussions in the Senate Judiciary Committee to bring legislation that would include some mandatory minimum sentences, though the expansion of the federal safety valve, and prison reforms to reduce the likelihood that offenders will engage in recidivist behavior.

Enacting a new and very costly mandatory minimum sentence defeats the purpose of criminal justice reform. In fact, this is how mass incarceration in the United States really took off. Congress enacted harsh sentences, including mandatory minimum sentences, as a reaction to a problem. As well intended as these policies were, they haven’t been an effective deterrent to crime. This proposed mandatory sentence won’t be any different.

Libertarian Landslide: Rand Paul Wins Big (Again) at CPAC

in Liberator Online by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Intellectual Ammunition section in Volume 19, No. 5 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

“CPAC Shifts to the Libertarians” — Daily Beast headline

“A Rand Paul Rout in CPAC Straw Poll” — Politico Magazine headline.

The headlines tell the story — and an exciting story it is.

The Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC) is the nation’s largest annual gathering of conservative activists and office holders. A highlight of each convention is a presidential straw poll, closely watched as an indicator of where Republicans and the broadly-defined conservative movement are moving.

This year, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky simply ran away with the Saturday March 8 poll, winning a whopping 31 percent of the 2,459 votes.

No one else was even close. Sen. Ted Cruz came in a distance second with 11 percent of the vote. Trailing behind them in single digits was a host of big-name Republicans, including Chris Christie, Rick Santorum, Paul Ryan, Rick Perry, Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee, and more.

It should be noted that the large number of younger activists who attend CPAC give the event a noticeable libertarian flavor. Rand Paul won last year’s poll as well, and his father Ron Paul won in 2010 and 2011.

Ron Paul’s CPAC victories previewed his historic 2012 race, which galvanized and mobilized the liberty movement. So Rand Paul’s sweeping victories last year and this year are widely seen as an indication of the growing political power of libertarian ideas.

On Friday night of the convention, Rand Paul delivered an electrifying speech that called for a liberty movement that would reach beyond the Republican party.

Excerpts:

“Imagine a time when liberty is again spread from coast to coast. Imagine a time when our great country is again governed by the Constitution. Imagine a time when the White House is once again occupied by a friend of liberty. You may think I’m talking about electing Republicans. I’m not. I’m talking about electing lovers of liberty.

“It isn’t good enough to pick the lesser of two evils. We must elect men and women of principle, and conviction and action, who will lead us back to greatness. There is a great and tumultuous battle underway for the future, not of the Republican Party but the future of the entire country.

“The question is, will we be bold and proclaim our message with passion or will we be sunshine patriots retreating under adverse fire?”

Rand Paul’s speech was peppered with quotes from the Founders, anti-slavery activist William Lloyd Garrison, and other great freedom fighters of the past. Paul attacked indefinite detention, NSA data collection, violation of Fourth Amendment rights, and more in a rip-roaring libertarian defense of civil liberties.

You can see the entire speech here.

After the speech and its wildly enthusiastic reception by so many young activists, the Daily Beast wrote:

“The crowd loved [Rand Paul]. These were his people, and they were whooping and hollering and chanting and fist-pumping like it was Saturday night at the roller derby.

“By the time Rand wrapped it all up by calling on the crowd to ‘Stand with me! Stand together for liberty!’ at least half the room would have followed him down to the gates of hell if he’d asked.

“If I were among the conservative movement’s values voters or hawks, I’d be getting mighty nervous right about now.”

UPDATE: New poll finds Rand Paul is GOP presidential race front-runner. It’s not just CPAC attendees who are ready to “Stand for Rand.” A new CNN/ORC International survey finds that Paul now tops the list of potential Republican presidential candidates.