We Know What Illegal Means. So What?

English spoken here: This week, as part of a series on illegal immigration by the Observer and our sister papers at Village Voice Media, we bring you our cover story, "Seized," by Phoenix New Times reporter Monica Alonzo. It's a brutal read about the kidnapping, rape, torture and murder of illegal immigrants at the hands of coyotes who smuggle immigrants over the Mexican border for pay.

As sure as the dawn, we're going to get a ton of comments on the story, some of which will be angry with us for publishing the piece, demanding, "What part of ILLEGAL don't you libtard douches understand?"

At the risk of offending some of our readers, here's Buzz's answer: "Oh, shut up."



Look, Mr. Angry Commenter Person, we speak English just fine here, and we're cognizant of what "illegal" means.

But that question you keep asking is not really an argument or an answer when it comes to dealing with the grim fact that several million hungry, desperate, hard-working people will run almost any risk to live here. We need smart policies and political compromise to deal with that fact—tougher workplace enforcement, better border control and yes, some sort of limited amnesty. Shouting vacuous, angry slogans gets us nowhere. Acknowledging the suffering and the contributions of immigrants as we create policies might get us somewhere.

Maybe Mr. Angry Guy isn't just hooting like an outraged ape, but defending the rule of law by suggesting all illegal immigrants need to be shipped home, pronto, regardless of hardship or injustice. Fine then. Let's do a little reality check:

The Pew Hispanic Center estimates there are around 11 million unauthorized immigrants in the States. That number has recently declined for the first time in memory by about 1 million. A source at Immigration and Customs Enforcement told Buzz that stricter enforcement is one reason for the exodus. But according to ICE, we held deportation proceedings for 387,000 illegal immigrants in 2009, and so far have sent home 294,230 people in fiscal year 2010, mostly those with criminal backgrounds. Immigration courts and law enforcement agencies are running near max capacity, and ICE's budget for its detention and removal operations is $2.55 billion. To clear out all 11 million or so undocumented immigrants at a rate of 400,000 removals a year would take around 25 years and more than $63 trillion just for that one part of ICE's existing budget—and that's assuming we managed to halt anyone else from coming.

So, Mr. Angry Commenter Person, you tell us: What part of reality, of compassion, of compromise don't you understand?

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