Misconceptions about immigrants and the criminal justice system
There are a lot of misunderstandings about illegal immigrants who have been accused with criminal charges. Factions opposed to the presence of illegal immigrants in the U.S. often cite studies incorrectly and use this information to generate fear about individuals doing their best to move from their home countries in search of a better life. This happened recently on a well-known conservative show that failed to convey the proper rules that concern an individual suspected of being an illegal immigrant after being charged with a crime.
According to the television show, a report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office found that 2,837 undocumented individuals were released into the supervision of Immigration and Customs Enforcement after being convicted of a sex offense as of September 2012. The host of the show said that this situation was frightening because these individuals could disappear into the country, into states like Nebraska. The host then inquired as to why the government couldn’t have these individuals deported. An analyst on the show blamed the inadequacies of the government and agreed that immigrants should have to live up to tougher standards than American citizens regarding criminal conduct.
The discussion may have led viewers to believe that undocumented individuals get away with crimes without having to go through the judicial system. This is incorrect. In fact, immigrants who are suspected of committing crimes go through the criminal justice system and can pay fines or serve jail time if they are convicted. A hearing is held by ICE to determine whether the immigrant should be deported following the completion of her or his punishment. Should the individual’s country of origin refuse to take that person, they can only be held for six more months. For the record, only 60 of the 2,837 individuals released by the government failed to register as sex offenders, but they were still under the supervision of ICE.
It is important to remember that anyone who is charged with a crime in the U.S. has the right to a fair trial, impartial jury or judge, and that guilt must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. This includes illegal immigrants charged with a crime.
Source: Media Matters, “Fox News Doesn’t Understand How Immigration Detention Works” Salvatore Colleluori, Sep. 18, 2013