Enough Already: The Ugly Side of Law

Law is intended to provide order. It is a set of limitations for human behavior based on the moralities of those who reside in any given country. Above all, it serves as a vehicle for holding criminal offenders accountable for their actions. So, why does a Pew Hispanic Report recently published indicate that the total number of Latinos in federal prison had risen to 40% in 2007, a figure all too startling considering that Latinos make up about 13% of the U.S. adult population?

According to this report, our government’s efforts to thwart illegal entry and residence in the country throughout the past fifteen years has instead led to an increase of about $209 million being spent each year on capturing the undocumented, from the $9 million spent in 2003. This undoubtedly contributes to the 72% of all Latinos held as offenders, who do not have U.S. citizenship. Last weekend, a New York Times editorial was published that sheds light to this side-effect of law, by stating:

“The country is filling the federal courts and prisons with nonviolent offenders. It is diverting immense law-enforcement resources from pursuing serious criminals — violent thugs, financial scammers — to an immense, self-defeating campaign to hunt down … workers.”

This whole issue begs the question of why we are allocating so much of our resources on pursuing undocumented people in the midst of an economic crisis, especially considering that federal detention centers exist for the punishment of criminals. After all, isn’t one of the main intentions of legal systems to provide security for the citizens of its country? When so many Latinos are now being thrown in prison based solely on their legal status in this country, it is plausible to assume that the government is misallocating its resources on unnecessary escapades, as many of these Latinos do not present such a threat. In my opinion, what is truly needed is a reform to immigration law and more accountability on assessment for federal spending.

-Marianne Peterson

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