There's a new majority in prisons, according to a quarterly report released yesterday by the U.S. Sentencing Commission: Latinos.They've gone from just 16 percent of federal prisoners to 50.1 percent in the last few months of the fiscal year.
So says The Associated Press (AP):
The commission's statistics also reveal that sentences for felony immigration crimes - which include illegal crossing and other crimes such as alien smuggling - were responsible for most of the increase in the number of Hispanics sent to prison over the last decade.
The demographic change in who is being sent to federal prison has already prompted debate among commissioners and experts studying the impact of expedited court hearings along the border.
"Statistics like this have to start drawing attention to this country's immigration policies and what we're doing, if this is one of the results," said Fordham University Law School professor Deborah Denno, an expert on racial disparities in the criminal justice system.
"The implications for Hispanics are huge when you think of the number of families affected by having their breadwinners put away for what in some cases would be considered a non-violent offense." [Emphasis added.]
Meanwhile, an article in today's Huffington Post takes a look at the mixed attitudes and upbringing of some U.S. Border Patrol agents and other tough on immigration activists who also have Latino blood. The most interesting case is a Minuteman, originally born in Cuba, who went on Morgan Spurlock's "30 Days" television show and was sent to live with a family of illegal immigrants. There he learned that compassion and being really harsh on poor people who commit victimless crimes can go hand-in-hand:
The episode depicts a change in [Frank] Jorge's once stringent views on illegal immigration. In the opening of the episode, Jorge says he had thoughts about calling an ICE bus to come pick up the family within 30 seconds of his arrival. By the end of the episode, Jorge looks into the camera and says, "Perhaps what we learned is that first and foremost, we are human beings, and that's the thing that overrides politics and everything else." He tells the eldest Gonzalez daughter Arminda, who is undocumented, that he will not return to the border as a Minuteman. He says he has gained "another perspective," and agrees to help the family members gain legal residence by attesting for their character.
But, Jorge now maintains that his change of opinion was mostly fabricated by the television show's producers. In a phone interview with HuffPost, he said he still considers himself a Minuteman and is now the co-host of "The Frank and Shannon Show," a radio show that advocates mass deportations and "securing that border militarily, with armed soldiers, with orders to shoot."
What was not fabricated, he claims, was his affinity for the undocumented family he lived with. "They were really lovely people, I loved them -- rather, I love them," he said.
Although Jorge himself is an immigrant and insists that he would "be trying 10 times a day to get over here" if he were on the Mexican side of the border, he says his intellect has driven him to be an advocate of harsher enforcement policies against illegal immigration.