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Stopped on the way home

Five illegal aliens who were in the process of deporting themselves, were removed from flights going through Bush Intercontinental Airport.

It seems counterintuitive.

The government pulls people suspected of being here illegally out of airplane lines and then pays to detain, prosecute and deport them to the country they were headed to in the first place.

Public defenders say it's a colossal waste of time and taxpayer money.

"What's silly about this is that they are on their way home. They have gotten the message that they shouldn't be here," said Houston's Federal Public Defender Marjorie Meyers. "It's not cost-effective."

Not true, says Houston's U.S. Attorney Don DeGabrielle.

In all 5 cases, involving0 4 men and one woman, they had been deported previously. One of them three times in all. The prosecutor says what the arrests and proseutions were necessary.

Is it? These people haven't obeyed the laws to date and have entered the country illegally. Prosecuting them makes it next to impossible for them to ever enter the country legally but would hardly hamper their making another illegal attempt.

The cost of the US prosecuting and then paying for their transport out of the country, when these illegals were already removing themselves, seems a waste of government money and resources. That's my view. Any one with a differing opinion?

The Houston Chronicle article in its entirety is below the fold.

The people they are prosecuting are repeat violators of U.S. immigration laws and it's not only necessary, but also efficient, to stop them and prosecute them, he said.

"We had already expended some time, effort and money before to institute deportation," DeGabrielle said.

To allow them to come back into the country without proper permission and then just let them leave would minimize what the government is trying to accomplish, he said.

"We feel it's definitely worth the resources to hold these people accountable," DeGabrielle said.

It's not the number of people who've been detained and prosecuted that has public defenders most concerned. The numbers have been relatively small.

But a trend could be developing: five cases since July, four in the past three months.

All five had been deported previously, had no criminal convictions and were stopped and detained by Customs and Border Protection officials at Bush Intercontinental Airport while trying to board planes to leave the country.

The four men and one woman were heading south -- to Mexico, Honduras or El Salvador. All were accused of the felony of re-entering the United States illegally after their prior deportation. A felony record will make it difficult for them to ever get legal permission to come back to this country.

DeGabrielle said there is no new policy, and the cluster of people stopped while leaving the country, at least four of them just flying through Houston making a connection, is a coincidence.

His office is not convinced they were leaving the country for good, he said, since all have come back without permission before.

Generally, the suspects are detained first at the airport, then brought downtown into custody of the U.S. Marshals Service. They then plead guilty to having entered the country illegally and are sentenced to time served, then deported at government expense, the lawyers involved said.

The biggest cost to taxpayers is the detention, which a Bureau of Prisons spokeswoman said averages $66.96 a day nationwide. They are held for two to three months, so that cost would be roughly $4,000 to $6,000.

Added to that is the cost of deportation -- a bus trip to the border for Mexico, a plane ride for other countries. And then there is a portion of the salaries of the government lawyers and the court personnel involved, plus court costs.

In the earliest case noticed by the public defenders in Houston in July, Freddy Navarro-Doblado was accompanied by a California police officer who had planned to take him all the way to Honduras.

Instead, Navarro-Doblado was taken into custody in Houston.

The other four cases were in December and January.

"It's a Catch-22 for these people. They can't leave the country to make it right," said Michael Herman, an assistant federal public defender who's handling some of the cases. "They are self-deporting, but they wind up in shackles and chains when these people have ... heeded the cry of the public for them to leave."

One defendant was sentenced this month by U.S. District Judge Nancy Atlas.

Hector Manuel Palafox-Acevedo, 29, pleaded guilty to the felony of entering the United States without proper documentation and was sentenced to the two months he has already served in detention. He will now be deported to Mexico, where he was heading when he was stopped as he tried to board a plane Dec. 12.

Herman defended Palafox-Acevedo in court and said he was heading to his hometown on a one-way ticket to Mexico to get married to his fiancee, a U.S. citizen, and work to get proper papers to come back to the United States legally.

He said Palafox-Acevedo has been here since he was 14, working as a machine operator and migrant worker and recently helping his fiancee raise her children.

Palafox-Acevedo, a slight man wearing detention center khakis, cried as he told the judge on Feb. 11 he would not come back to the United States again.

"The only thing I want is to go back," Palafox-Acevedo told the judge tearfully through a court interpreter. "I am afraid of going back to jail."

But as prosecutor Bert Isaacs noted, Palafox-Acevedo has been deported without a felony conviction three times: in 2002, 2006 and 2007. Isaacs asked the judge to hold Palafox-Acevedo longer while a full background check was done.

"I don't know whether Mr. Palafox-Acevedo has gotten the message or not," Isaacs told the judge, when asking for the maximum penalty of six months in prison, given all the sentencing factors in the case.

But the judge said it would not be a good use of resources to do a further background check since Palafox-Acevedo had already been vetted.

Kelly Klundt, a spokeswoman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection in Washington, D.C., said the agency checks passenger lists to find people who have broken the law, which has helped stop a child abduction and find large amounts of currency and drugs.

"We have an obligation and the authority to intercept them," Klundt said.

She said she hasn't been asked about these kinds of detentions and prosecutions anywhere but Houston, and that it is the prosecutors' decision whether to see the cases through.


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Comments (6)

Bill,It is both co... (Below threshold)


It is both counterintuitive and not at the same time. Thanks to the draconian construction of the Immigration & Nationality Act, DHS is forced to do some fairly strange things. People need to thank Congress for that. Its worse than the tax code.

In this case, let me provide an example. If these individuals were permitted to "self deport", when they try to come in again and they are caught, their prior presence will not be of any use for whatever actions are taken, especially prosecution.

If they are prosecuted this time and then kicked out, when they try to come back again and are caught (or even if they make it through and are caught by ICE) their prior history will have been documented and their identities already confirmed, and the prosecution can use that to impose far more serious penalties, including a felony record and incarceration.

The reality is, of course, if that was done to everyone who self deports, the court system would probably implode. It would not make sense to do this to every farm-worker that violates the U.S. border, but if there were some underlying circumstances (prior criminal record, for example) then it would make sense in that context.

Hope that helps.

These people haven't obe... (Below threshold)

These people haven't obeyed the laws to date and have entered the country illegally. Prosecuting them makes it next to impossible for them to ever enter the country legally but would hardly hamper their making another illegal attempt.Yeah. Right! Why would be arrest any criminal if they are only going to do it again sometime? After all, one arrest won't stop all crime! Impeccable logic!

Why doesn't our government ... (Below threshold)

Why doesn't our government use the money spent to instead stop people from ever coming here in the first place? That would be a more logical use of it. Maybe illegals are starting to worry about the wall that is being built. Which goes to show they don't want to be a part of our country in the first place. They are taking what they can get from us and going back home to their families and later coming back for more.

Actually, we do this where ... (Below threshold)

Actually, we do this where I work also.

It does seem counterproductive but it is not. Just as we would like to stop the employers from employing illegals, we want to stop the airlines from being complicit in travel of illegal aliens.

We have brand new WHTI rules that make it a penalty for airlines to now transport people who do not have proper documents. Again, it seems counterintuitive because these people are deporting themselves.

But really, they aren't. They are going home for the holidays, or they have a sick family member they want to visit, or the season is over so they are going home until next season, etc.

The harder we make it for them to travel, both in and out of the United States, the less likely they will be to come back here. They count on the fact that we don't care enough to hassle them.

So we do not want to just make it difficult for them to come into the country, we want to make it difficult for them to travel freely, period.

Diana, I understand your point but please try and understand mine. For decades now these folks have been moving about freely back and forth across the border. They take seasonal jobs and the healthiest and youngest of men get across the border easily. It will still be years and years before we even come close to sealing up our borders, if we ever do.

In the meantime, every step we take to make it that much more difficult for them to enter and exit freely, the better.

You see, it used to be that once they entered they felt safe and secure. But now we are trying to make it so that they never feel safe and secure when they are here without documents.

Hope that makes sense.

Repeat offenders should be ... (Below threshold)

Repeat offenders should be placed in a prison with some of our violent criminals for a few months and then deported. The reality of that experience should discourage them from ever stepping foot in our nation again.

This article regarding the ... (Below threshold)

This article regarding the arrest and detainment of these five illegal aliens was all over the internet the day following its publication. As this commentary on the article shows, some of the five were already planning on their return, while the arrest of one man had him in tears out of fear.
It seems like they needed to be arrested because the mere fact that they were leaving at the moment doesn't really mean much.
My question is: there were only five illegal immigrants arrested and detained in the past year in this airport that has a ton of flights to Mexico daily. Does this mean these were the only people who were caught or the only people with felony records that required immigration to arrest them?






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