Pubdate: Sun, 25 Mar 2007
Source: Nevada Appeal (Carson City, NV)
Copyright: 2007 Nevada Appeal
Author: Guy W. Farmer, Special to the Appeal
Note: Guy W. Farmer, of Carson City, served in the front lines of the 
War On Drugs for nearly 30 years as a U.S. Foreign Service officer.


I heartily endorse Nevada Supreme Court Justice Jim Hardesty's
proposed legislation to deport non-violent criminal aliens in a policy
shift that would relieve prison overcrowding and save Silver State
taxpayers many millions of dollars per year. I urge state lawmakers to
give Hardesty's proposal the careful consideration that it deserves.

According to Justice Hardesty, Nevada could save at least $10 million
a year by deporting some 500 non-violent criminal aliens, each of whom
costs taxpayers approximately $20,000 per year (although I think those
numbers are closer to 2,000 criminals and $50,000 per inmate). Many of
these convicted felons are in prison for possessing "trafficking
amounts" of illicit narcotics. As a part-time English/Spanish
interpreter, I've seen this problem up close and personal over the
past 10 years and don't think the current approach is a cost-effective
approach to the problem. At present, drug "mules" usually serve two-
to six-year prison terms before being deported.

When he was on the bench, retired Carson City District Judge Mike
Griffin often lamented that state law required him to send relatively
low-level offenders to prison while major traffickers remained free to
peddle their deadly wares. Griffin advocated an alternative solution:
Deport the offender to his or her country of origin (most often
Mexico) with just one condition - stay out of the U.S. and don't come
back. Any deportee who's ordered not to return violates federal law by
re-crossing the border and faces 10 years in prison, which is a strong

Under Hardesty's proposal, each qualified inmate would be evaluated by
the parole board to determine whether he or she should be deported. "I
know right now of 469 inmates who are in prison on a single felony
conviction," Hardesty said. Rick Eaton of the U.S. Immigration and
Customs Enforcement Agency seemed amenable to the plan, commenting
that his agency "has the money and beds to hold and deport" the prisoners.

Those who oppose Hardesty's common sense approach to prison
overcrowding, such as federal public defender Vito de la Cruz of Reno,
argue that the judge's plan could result in the deportation of "the
most attractive of the illegal immigrant felons." Attractive? I don't
think so because they were already in violation of our immigration
laws before they were convicted of drug felonies.

Some journalists and lawmakers offer qualified support for the
Hardesty Plan by agreeing that first-time drug offenders should be
offered probation, but a few also sympathize with de la Cruz's "second
chance" proposal. No way! Deportation with a no-return clause should
be a mandatory condition for probation in such cases. This would
represent reciprocity with Mexico, which deports criminal aliens
without recourse to the courts or parole authorities. As for violent
offenders and major drug dealers, they should be prosecuted to the
full extent of the law.

One fellow columnist wrote that "about 12,800 inmates are currently
housed in Nevada's eight prisons, about 1,000 more than can be
accommodated without putting up cots in gymnasiums and using
trailers." I'll accept those numbers but disagree about giving second
chances to criminal aliens. They already had their chance and should
have thought about possible consequences before they transported
and/or sold drugs. For those worried about family reunification, they
can be reunited in their home countries.

More on Illegal Immigration and Drugs

We keep hearing stories about the positive contributions of illegal
immigrants to the American economy. Well, I have two chilling examples
to offer on the other side of that story. Earlier this month, U.S.
authorities cracked a little-known Mexican drug cartel that had been
moving huge quantities of drugs from South America to San Diego, from
where they were sent to more than 20 states, including Nevada.

The San Diego Union-Tribune reported that a 22-month federal sting
operation netted a Mexican drug kingpin, some 400 of his employees -
many of whom are so-called "undocumented workers" - more than $45
million in cash and tons of drugs. "A drug empire that rose to such
heights of power in only two years, fell today," said U.S. Drug
Enforcement Administration (DEA) Chief Karen Tandy as she announced
the huge drug bust. It couldn't have happened to a more deserving
bunch of folks.

And just last week Mexican anti-drug agents seized $205 million in
cash from a house in an upscale Mexico City neighborhood where many of
the city's politicians, diplomats and business leaders reside. Newly
elected President Felipe Calderon said the money belonged to drug
traffickers and constituted the largest cash seizure ever in Mexico.
If Calderon is really serious about dismantling Mexican drug cartels,
we should congratulate him for his courage and offer our support to
help stem the flow of crystal meth and other dangerous drugs into the

These are hopeful signs in the anti-drug wars and we should assist
Mexico in cracking down on the drug cartels while at the same time
deporting non-violent criminal aliens in order to save millions of
Nevada taxpayer dollars. Again, I urge the Legislature to pass the
Hardesty Bill.