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Kittrie addresses border conference
Kittrie addresses national conference on border crime
Orde Félix Kittrie
Orde Félix Kittrie, associate professor at the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law, spoke July 26 at a day-long conference held by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in Fairfax, Va., entitled "Southwest Border Crime: Understanding the Issues."
Conference attendees included representatives of state and local police agencies across the country, members of the U.S. Border Patrol, the CIA, the State Department, the Defense Department and, from Arizona, Roger Vanderpool, director of the Arizona Department of Public Safety, and Alonzo Peña, special agent in charge of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement for Arizona.
"While the conventional wisdom among immigration hardliners is that unauthorized immigrants are disproportionately violent and a net drain on the U.S. economy, the conventional wisdom on the left is that illegal immigration is harmless, a kind of victimless crime," Kittrie said in his remarks. "Neither is correct."
Kittrie said the evidence tends to show that unauthorized immigrants do not commit a higher proportion of crimes (other than immigration violations) than the rest of the U.S. population.
Unauthorized immigrants likely represent a net gain to the economy of the United States, said Kittrie. He referred to a recent University of Arizona study that estimated costs to the state of all unauthorized immigrants are about $1 billion per year, but if all unauthorized immigrants were removed from Arizona's workforce, economic output would drop annually by at least $29 billion, or 8.2 percent.
However, Kittrie said, these statistics do not mean that there is no need to fix the currently broken immigration system.
"Although the vast majority of unauthorized immigrants to the United States are likely good people who do not commit crimes other than immigration violations and are a net benefit to the U.S. economy, the process by which they are currently entering the United States is causing great harm," Kittrie said.
The smuggling routes and criminal enterprises by which unauthorized immigrants enter the United States are causing collateral damage, Kittrie said.
That damage, he said, includes rising levels of corruption among federal, state and local border officials; frequent theft of autos for use in transporting unauthorized immigrants (giving Arizona the highest auto theft rate among the 50 states); hundreds of deaths per year of unauthorized immigrants; increased infiltration into the United States of dangerous Mexican drug cartels; growth in violent street gangs such as MS-13; and environmental damage.
Another cost is the rampant abuse and exploitation of the estimated 12 million unauthorized immigrants currently in the United States, Kittrie said. Fear of deportation makes unauthorized immigrants reluctant to call police, he said, and that fact is regularly exploited by unscrupulous employers, common criminals, battering spouses, corrupt government officials, and border vigilantes.
When so many persons within the United States feel they have no choice but to suffer crimes in silence, the unpunished crimes do not only harm the unauthorized immigrants, Kittrie said.
Unaddressed crimes in the labor area, such as the rampant nonpayment or underpayment of wages to unauthorized immigrants, can drive down wages and working conditions for legal workers who are forced to compete with employer preferences for exploitable unauthorized immigrants, Kittrie said. In addition, street criminals emboldened by their success in committing crimes unreported by unauthorized immigrant victims or eyewitnesses or both, may go on to commit crimes against citizens.
Kittrie concluded that the need for immigration reform is urgent, although not for the reasons focused on by the conventional wisdom.
Kittrie has been an associate professor of law at Arizona State University since 2004. Prior to entering academia, Kittrie served for 11 years at the U.S. Department of State. He most recently served as the State Department's director of International Anti-Crime Programs, overseeing U.S. policy and technical assistance programs for promoting the rule of law and combating transnational crime worldwide, including corruption, money laundering, cybercrime, and alien smuggling.
A Mexican-American, Kittrie served during 2006 as President of Hispanic National Bar Association Region XIV, representing Arizona and Nevada on the association's Board of Governors and overseeing association activities in those states. He has also served as a member of the board of directors of Los Abogados, the Hispanic Bar Association of Arizona, and was honored in 2006 by the Chicano Faculty and Staff Association of Arizona State University with the Dr. Manuel Servin award for mentorship, scholarship and service to the Hispanic community. Kittrie is the author of several scholarly articles, including
Federalism, Deportation and Crime Victims Afraid to Call the Police.