Beginning in 1991, for more than a year, a 22-year-old Salvadoran immigrant sexually abused an eight-year-old California girl.  This permanent legal resident took advantage of her whenever he was at his cousin’s house, where he lived in Los Angeles.

He was not always there, so the child would return to the home of her girlfriend to play.  Whenever he was there, however, he would grope her.  He even attempted intercourse.

The immigrant molester was arrested on March 23, 1992.  He pled no contest to a sexual-abuse charge, was convicted, underwent psychological examination, and served only a few months of a six-year sentence with four years probation.  After his release in mid-September 1992, he obtained permission from his probation officer to go to Oregon for three months—unsupervised.

His conviction for child molestation, an aggravated felony, made the immigrant deportable.  But the Immigration and Naturalization Service nearly put this criminal back on America’s streets permanently.  (The INS didn’t even know that the alien had been arrested!)

But this predator faced a real guardian—a parent.  The girl’s mother informed the INS that the immigrant had been released from jail.  The INS’s response: So what?

A convicted alien child molester roamed American streets from September 1992 until September 1994 under what the victim’s mother calls a “total honor system.”  The state of California listed the immigrant as a sex offender.

Was this alien criminal a menace to society?  The judge considered him a flight risk and set bail at $90,000.  Although the specific times and dates of the abuse that had occurred over the course of a year were hard for a young child to establish, it is clear that he repeatedly assaulted her.  And the victim says, “I know he did it [to others] before me and he’ll do it again to somebody else.”

The mother persisted.  From December 1993 until September 1994, she had to gather proof for an INS investigator that the immigrant had been convicted of this heinous crime.  She had to obtain original, certified court documents—at her own expense—to give to the INS.

After nine months, the INS finally stepped up and deported the immigrant child molester.

A “border culture” now overtaking the country has resulted in many officials’ lackadaisical attitudes.  U.S. citizens, who pay the taxes that fund immigration services and law enforcement, bear the ugly consequences of this border culture—in this case, as victims of crime.  These crimes need not have happened.  They occur because the fire-hydrant volume of immigration is flooding the country with hundreds of thousands of aliens for whom crime pays.

For every two legal immigrants, one immigrant enters the United States illegally.  Some aliens are “coyotes” in alien-smuggling rings.  Others smuggle narcotics.  Some launder money.  Still others traffic in fraudulent identity documents and steal people’s identities.  Both legal and illegal aliens commit these and other serious crimes.

Under the prevailing border culture, immigrants can make out like bandits by victimizing the innocent.  They may not be caught, because they can easily slink into the barrio and ethnic enclave.  If they are caught, immigration authorities are not likely to pursue their deportation, as the case of the Salvadoran sexual predator shows.

An INS investigator told the California victim’s mother that only one fourth of deportable criminal aliens are actually removed from the United States.  This fact has drawn the ire of the House Appropriations Committee.  Its report on fiscal year 2001 INS appropriations stated,

Most disturbing was the revelation made earlier this year that the INS released 35,319 criminal aliens back into the community, aliens who should have been deported, of whom 11,605 (37%) were later arrested for additional crimes, including 3,847 for drug-related crimes, 98 for homicide, 142 for sexual assault, 44 for kidnapping, 347 for robbery, and 1,214 for assault.

If not for the determination of one American woman, another criminal alien would have joined the three fourths of criminal aliens who get off the deportation hook and land back in our communities—often to commit more crimes.

Besides importing criminals to our streets, uncontrolled immigration is causing what the Hudson Institute’s Irwin Stelzer has called “a rising noncitizen jail population.”  The Bureau of Prisons says that nearly 30 percent of federal inmates are foreigners.  Figures on state and local jails are harder to come by.  The INS, now named Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) under the Department of Homeland Security, estimates that about 84,000 state inmates are foreign-born.  Three fourths or more occupy cells in Arizona, California, Florida, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, and Texas.

Lamar Smith, then chairman of the House Immigration Subcommittee, declared at a 1997 hearing,

There are over 110,000 foreign-born nationals in federal and state prisons.  The intake of new foreign-born prisoners has been rising in recent years, with approximately 50,000 more entering our prisons in fiscal year 1996.  Historically, almost 80 percent of foreign-born prisoners turn out to be removable criminal aliens; thus, in addition to those who are already incarcerated, about 40,000 more removable criminal aliens enter American prisons each year.

What is the ICE’s excuse for not making sure that criminal aliens get a one-way trip home?  Lack of personnel, which is the same excuse the ICE gives for not picking up the illegal aliens whom America’s local police capture by the vanload.

On the night of July 17, 2002, in Tulsa, Oklahoma, a sheriff’s deputy stopped a van missing a taillight on I-244.  Eighteen illegal aliens were packed in the van.  He called the INS, who initially told him to hold the aliens.  Two hours later, the INS said, Let them go.

One of the captured aliens had a Texas driver’s license; another had a Maryland driver’s license.  The aliens said they were driving from Houston to New York or Chicago.

On the Friday before Memorial Day 2002, just as the Office of Homeland Security issued an alert about possible terrorism, police stopped a battered van with seven illegal aliens from the Middle East at the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel.  The aliens displayed a variety of ID’s, four of which seemed legitimate.  One was a fake government card that came from Times Square.  Another was a phony passport.

Police called the INS at 5:20 P.M.; the INS returned the call at 8:00 P.M.  The aliens had to be released because the INS could not come to get them.

Congress has added thousands of new ICE and Border Patrol agents over the past half-decade.  Repeated budget requests for more investigators have been axed by INS bosses or the Office of Management and Budget.  With immigration at extremely high levels today, however, there is no way the ICE could ever hire enough personnel to do its job satisfactorily.

The proof is in its reputation.  Attorney General John Ashcroft asked the International Association of Chiefs of Police for help in catching aliens who do not register their place of U.S. residence (a law long on the books but unenforced for more than a decade).  The Billings, Montana, police chief, who formerly headed the Nebraska State Police, told of his experience with the INS: “We’d call them up and they’d say let them go, we’re too busy.”

The INS has received some of the most generous budget increases of any agency in the past several years.  Its budget rose 18 percent in fiscal year 2002 and 40 percent from fiscal year 1996 to 1998.

The Clinton administration misallocated INS resources.  It discouraged interior enforcement and stacked agents on the border.  The Clinton policy became, in effect, We’ll make it a little harder to cross the border, but, once you are in America, we won’t touch you.

In 1994, the INS split the policy and operations arms of its investigations division, making it harder to implement enforcement policy.  It downplayed interior enforcement, putting no senior-level executive in charge of investigations from 1996 until 2001.

As a former assistant commissioner for investigations, John F. Shaw testified before Congress in 1999, “in-house at INS, the Commissioner [Doris Meissner] has said that Interior Enforcement is a term of usage invented by Investigations and devoid of meaning.”  Prosecutorial discretion is one thing; a pattern of ignoring “minor” violations is another.

Bureaucratic buck-passing has even led the INS to break the law.  Immigration law requires the agency to detain aggravated-felon aliens until they are removed.  Yet it routinely releases removable criminal aliens and lets illegal aliens walk.

The Border Patrol arrested John Lee Malvo—an illegal alien from Jamaica recently convicted of capital murder as one of the suspected Washington, D.C., snipers—in Bellingham, Washington, on December 19, 2001, along with his mother.  Since they were stowaways, the law calls for their mandatory detention and immediate removal, which the Border Patrol recommended.  The INS, however, released Uma Sceon James on a $1,500 bond and Malvo on his own recognizance.

Despite the agency’s complaints, the basic problem is not money, understaffing, or ineptitude.  At bottom, the INS suffers from being overwhelmed by a large volume of aliens.  And its leadership lacks commitment to law and order.

Census figures show that the United States became home to more than 1.3 million legal and illegal immigrants each year throughout the 1990’s.  In addition to the roughly one million legal immigrants annually admitted during that decade, the United States granted temporary visas to another 30 million aliens annually.  A portion of them became illegal aliens.  Millions more do not require a visa because they come from a visa-waiver country.  Nearly half a billion people cross the border every year (some repeatedly, as commuters).  Then, of course, there are the illegal border jumpers.

“The reason the INS can’t respond is they are literally drowning in illegals,” says Eugene Davis, a 29-year veteran of the Border Patrol.  He calls the problem “worse than epidemic.”

As a practical matter, this tumult far outpaces any number of agents the ICE, Border Patrol, or any other federal agency could hope to hire.  The only reasonable option is to lower the number of immigrants, starting with those countries that send the most or have the highest proportions of illegal aliens and criminal immigrants and the lowest rates of naturalization (a measure of assimilation).

Other criteria for imposing stricter standards could include whether a country of origin readily takes back its emigrant criminals, sponsors terrorism, or allows dual citizenship.

The top sets the tone, and, sadly, the top INS guy has been disturbingly soft on enforcing the law.  President Bush’s INS commissioner, James Ziglar, a self-identified libertarian, told the Arizona Daily Star in 2002 that

We need to set up a regime where we don’t have to spend so much of our time and effort in enforcement activities dealing with people who are not terrorists, who are not threats to our national security, who are economic refugees.

Ziglar was obliging the whims of the Mexican government, pushing for a mass amnesty of immigration lawbreakers.  Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge expressed a similar view in Miami on December 9, 2003.  If the head of the INS is on record as unwilling to enforce immigration laws, however, then who is supposed to do it?  If he does not realize that an alien does not have to be a terrorist to threaten the nation’s security and safety, who in the government does?  If he does not know that there is no such thing as an economic refugee, what is the average American to do?

One obvious solution to the ICE personnel problem is to involve America’s cops on the beat.  The Department of Justice has begun to reexamine a legal opinion drafted during the Clinton administration.  The 1996 opinion interprets the law narrowly with regard to the authority of local and state police officers to enforce immigration law: “State and local police may constitutionally detain or arrest aliens who have violated the criminal provisions of” U.S. immigration laws, but not “solely for purposes of civil deportation proceedings.”  The current Department of Justice is reconsidering the matter, and media reports in spring 2002 quoted a leaked draft as saying that states and localities have the “inherent authority to enforce civil as well as criminal violations of federal immigration law” in their capacity as “sovereign entities.”

Capitol Hill conservatives have no excuse for failing to take advantage of the help of the people who daily enforce the laws.  There are nearly 700,000 state and local police officers, compared with just 50,000 federal law officers (including 6,000 ICE special agents).  Local cops would improve the odds of capturing and removing more of the estimated nine million illegal aliens.

Proponents of this approach point out that the use of local police is about more than homeland security and antiterrorism.  It reestablishes general respect for law, enhancing vigilance at the local level and increasing the certainty that lawbreakers—including immigration violators—will be caught and suffer real consequences for choosing to break the law.

After all, it was run-of-the-mill illegal aliens who aided some of the September 11 hijackers, helping them fraudulently obtain driver’s licenses and other ID’s.

In the end, security advocates say, mass immigration with loose controls has serious consequences—including more scarred lives; greater exposure of the innocent public to risk; and extra taxpayer costs for catching, trying, jailing, detaining, processing, and removing bad foreigners.