First time in U.S. history a jury convicts an illegal immigrant of conspiracy to smuggle himself
By Rachel Alexander
Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas and Sheriff Joe Arpaio are the only law enforcement officials in the country arresting and prosecuting illegal immigrants under an anti-human smuggling (coyote) statute.
An Arizona jury returned a guilty verdict against an illegal immigrant for conspiracy to smuggle himself into the country, a felony under Arizona law. Adolfo Guzman-Garcia will be sentenced for a class 4 felony, punishable by up to 3.75 years in prison, on December 5, 2006. Almost 336 illegal immigrants have been arrested and 161 have already accepted guilty pleas offered by the Maricopa County Attorney's Office.
Thomas noted that it was the first time in U.S. history that an anti-smuggling law has been used to successfully prosecute illegal immigrants, by plea offers and now a jury verdict, describing the landmark decision, "The glacier of illegal immigration is starting to drip away. In Maricopa County, we will continue to keep the heat on until both smugglers and conspirators get the message." (Apparently global warming is occurring in Arizona?)
Since Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas and Sheriff Joe Arpaio began enforcing the law against illegal immigrants in March of this year, the numbers of illegal immigrants attempting to cross the Mexico-Arizona border has decreased. Arpaio declared, "The word is out, don't come through Arizona. Instead they are heading for California or Nevada's border."
So far, the Maricopa County Attorney's Office has achieved a 90% conviction rate of those arrested. Detractors have criticized the Maricopa County Attorney's Office for a legal opinion it provided Arpaio with that confirmed the anti-smuggling law could be applied not just to coyotes, but to illegal immigrants through Arizona's conspiracy statute. Unless specifically exempted by the legislature, conspiracy laws apply to all felonies. One coyote has been convicted by a jury.
The local Arizona media has mostly ignored the arrests and convictions of illegal immigrants since they began in March of this year, claiming that there have been no "convictions" under the anti-smuggling statute and that no jury has found any of the arrestees guilty. This is playing with words. Accepting a guilty plea, as 161 illegal immigrants have done, results in a "conviction" on their record. And there hasn't been any jury convictions until now because most of the suspects accepted guilty pleas instead of going to trial (a handful of cases were dismissed); they never made it through the process to a jury trial, which can take up to six months. Leaves the mainstream media with egg on its face now.
Thomas had harsh words for I.C.E., the federal Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agency, for failing to deport the illegal immigrants after they pled guilty and were convicted. "The reality is we live in a border state and we are awash in illegal immigration," Thomas said. "They have a duty to uphold the law and the Constitution." When Sheriff Arpaio first started arresting them under the human smuggling law, I.C.E. refused to pick them up after conviction for deportation, instead, Arpaio and his deputies had to drive them themselves to Yuma next to the border. However, Arpaio said that since I.C.E. has changed leadership in Arizona, it has begun picking them up and transferring them for deportation.
Thomas is confident that having to spend several months in Maricopa County jail will send a deterrent message. Having a felony on their record will prohibit an illegal immigrant from being able to obtain U.S. citizenship in the future. Arpaio vowed to continue arresting illegal immigrants, "I'm gonna keep locking them up…we are being proactive, my posse is out there looking for them." The Maricopa County jail has a reputation as a miserable place to do time, because of its Tent City facilities located in the desert, its green bologna and water, and other tough restrictions. Inmates who have done time in both the jail and the state's Department of Corrections have learned to ask the judge to allow them to serve their time in prison instead of jail. Arpaio sent a message to anyone contemplating illegally crossing the border, "You can't work cutting palm trees if you're in jail…you have to follow the law."
Arpaio says his is the only law enforcement agency arresting illegal immigrants under the human smuggling statute. He hopes that this decision will encourage other law enforcement to enforce the law. "I'm tired of city police complaining about the cost of arresting illegal immigrants. That complaint is garbage. It's a felony. The county picks up the tab for felonies, the city only pays for misdemeanor arrests." Thomas has also noted that he is the only county attorney in the nation prosecuting illegal immigrants for human smuggling. Working together, Thomas and Arpaio have become the toughest law enforcement team in the nation fighting illegal immigration. Although illegal immigration still remains a nationwide problem, the duo has done what they can locally, making it less Arizona's problem.
Rachel Alexander is the founder of the wildly popular Intellectual Conservative.
Get weekly updates about new issues of ESR!