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    Last modified Tuesday, February 10, 2004 1:11 PM PST

    Archives
    The high price of alien felons

    For the cost of incarcerating Fabian Gomez-Montalvo, Oregon ought to send somebody the bill. It would not be for a small amount. The young man from Mexico, 20 years old and illegally in this country, was sentenced last week to nearly 27 years in prison. This was after he had pleaded guilty to a series of felonies stemming from five break-ins at Albany homes, including two cases in which he molested women who woke up to find him in their beds.

    The Department of Corrections says it costs $64.25 a day to keep an inmate in prison. At that rate, assuming that this convict serves his entire sentence, his imprisonment will cost Oregon more than $630,000.

    The court was told that he worked at a Tangent seed company. Assuming that the state got some tax revenue from his employment, Oregon might knock a little something off the bill.

    As of Feb. 1, the Corrections Department reports that of its roughly 12,300 inmates, 716 had a detainer from immigration authorities, meaning they faced deportation as foreign nationals once their sentences are up.

    At the daily rate of $64.25 per prisoner, the presence of these people in Oregon and keeping them incarcerated was costing Oregon $46,000 a day or $16.8 million a year.

    This is one cost of illegal immigration that does not often get mentioned. But it should.

    Who should get the bill for young Fabian? First choice would be the government of Mexico, where he grew up, graduated from high school, and where his family lives, according to a report given at his sentencing in Linn County Circuit Court.

    The Mexican government bears at least some of the responsibility for the volume of illegal migration to the United States. It might be a stretch, but an argument can be made that it is also responsible for the consequences, such as when one of its citizens commits crimes in a place where by law he's not even supposed to be.

    A more likely billing target would be the United States government, which has failed to control traffic across the national borders. The national government is responsible for the common defense, and surely that would normally include guarding the borders against invasion. The invasion that's been going on is not a military one, but it's an invasion of sorts nevertheless.

    In reality Oregon can't pin the expense of this case on any of the responsible parties. It is an expense that is routinely absorbed as part of the multimillion-dollar burden of the prison system. But by rights, Oregon taxpayers should not have to pay for the incarceration of men who, even before they became felons, were not entitled by law to be in this state. (hh)

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