Sergio Jose Martinez is an illegal alien from Mexico. He viciously raped two women in Portland, Oregon, this past July. One of the victims was 65 years old. When the court sentenced him to 31 to 35 years of jail time, he reportedly told observers in the courtroom that he would see them in hell.
Martinez sounds like the type of guy who should be deported after serving his sentence. There’s only one problem. He already has been, at least 20 times. How can that happen? Sadly it’s all too common. Here’s the problem:
- The U.S. Immigration Court enters deportation orders against illegal aliens and other immigration violators following an immigration hearing.
- U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is responsible for physically removing illegal aliens and other immigration violators from the United States.
- When ICE encounters deportees who are subject to a final order of removal and who have unlawfully returned to the United States, it can usually re-deport them without any additional hearings.
But that’s all it can do – re-deport them. And aside from the diligent efforts of the U.S. Border Patrol, there’s very little to keep deportees from returning to the U.S.
However, there is a tool available to federal prosecutors that can break this vicious cycle. As FAIR has previously reported, federal law makes reentering the United States after deportation a federal crime. If an alien was deported for having been convicted of an aggravated felony, the sentence for reentry is imprisonment for a maximum of 20 years.
The U.S. Attorneys – the federal equivalent of a District Attorney – are responsible for filing criminal charges against previously deported aliens who return to the United States. However, the relatively light sentences that federal courts impose for criminal re-entry tend to discourage U.S. Attorneys from prosecuting all but the most egregious cases.
The net result is that dangerous criminals like Martinez and Jose Ines Garcia Zarate, the illegal alien who shot and killed Kate Steinle aren’t afraid to sneak back into the U.S. after ICE deports them. But they should be – criminal laws are supposed to deter would-be offenders from committing crimes, in addition to prescribing punishments for their transgressions.
President Trump has taken a number of positive steps toward returning our immigration system to the rule of law. In order to make his actions more effective, he should instruct his U.S. Attorneys to begin prosecuting removal charges against every criminal re-entrant that ICE can locate. Maybe when enough criminal re-entrants wind up facing hard time in U.S. prisons, they’ll get the message that there’s a new sheriff in town and their unlawful presence will no longer be tolerated.