Nationwide and in the Eastern District of Wisconsin, the number of people charged with the federal crime known as “illegal re-entry after deportation” has increased exponentially since 2001, reports the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. For the 12-month period ending Sept. 30 of that year, there were just two people charged with the crime in Wisconsin’s Eastern District, which includes Milwaukee. For the same period last year, 35 people were charged here. As a result, Americans are spending millions of dollars to imprison the repeat offenders.
Many offenders are not caught until they end up in state prisons, convicted of some other crime. Although the crackdown is a direct result of the September 2001 terrorist attacks, the overwhelming majority of those prosecuted are Mexican nationals with no ties to terrorist organizations or countries. Proponents say sending offenders to federal prison before forcing them out of the country again makes them think twice about coming back once they’re released. Critics question the effectiveness of the approach, since recidivism rates are impossible to track. They point out that many illegal re-entrants who get long sentences because of past criminal records aren’t dangerous. Perhaps, critics say, tighter controls over U.S. borders would be a better use of millions of taxpayer dollars than incarceration.