Courtesy of Bill O'Reilly at Fox News, the Ramos case is now receiving national attention.
And maybe--just maybe--it can refocus the debate on one of our greatest security concerns: the flood of illegal aliens that have entered this country, and the refusal of government (at all levels) to do anything about it. Unfortunately, if last night's O'Reilly segment is any indication, efforts meaningful debate will be quickly drowned out by petty squabbling, partisan bickering and political correctness.
Here's the Ramos case in a nutshell: Alfredo Ramos is a 22-year-old waiter who entered this country illegally, and found work as a waiter in Virginia Beach, Virginia.
Last Friday night, driving drunk, Ramos' vehicle slammed into a car sitting at a traffic light in Virginia Beach. Two teenage girls in the second car--17-year-old Alison Kunhardt and 16-year-old Teresa Tranchant--died in the accident.
Ramos was arrested by police, and he's currently in jail, facing possible murder charges. Reporting by local papers, including the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot, revealed that Ramos had past brushes with the law, and admitted in court that he is in the country illegally. But nothing was done to deport him, despite past convictions for public drunkeness and driving under the influence.
But you wouldn't know that from last night's "discussion" on The O'Reilly Factor. We use that term advisedly, because the segment on Mr. Ramos quickly deteriorated into a shouting match between the host and Geraldo Rivera. Bill argued that the Ramos case is all about illegal immigration. Rivera countered that its nothing more than a drunk driver who killed two young women.
Who's right? Both are, but only to a point. Clearly, Geraldo doesn't like to admit that Mr. Ramos shouldn't be here in the first place, and has proven himself to be a public menace during his illegal stay in our country. And, contrary to what O'Reilly says, I doubt he would cover the story if the drunk driver was an American citizen named Smith, Jones, or Hale.
Kerry Dougherty, a columnist for the Pilot, had superior coverage of the matter in yesterday's paper. She dismisses Geraldo's notion that we somehow "lure" illegals to this country, filling jobs that we don't want. She observes that many Americans are happy to wait tables--if the pay is right. Ms. Dougherty also refutes the notion that local and state law enforcement can't do anything about illegal immigrants.
Turns out that Virginia's Republican Attorney General, Bob McDonnell has been pushing Democratic Governor Tim Kaine to enter into an agreement with the feds, giving state and local police the authority to enforce immigration laws in their jurisdictions. Kaine has rejected that idea, claiming that state police as "busy enough already," and that the feds "don't care all that much" about enforcing the law in every case. Mr. McDonnell claims that local enforcement is necessary, given the "strong correlation between illegal immigrants and crime."
And, unfortunately, that's the element that was absent on The O'Reilly Factor last night. While Bill was blistering Virginia Beach Mayor Meyera Obendorf for running a "sanctuary city," he missed an opportunity to make more meaningful points on the correlation that Mr. McDonnell spoke of. Listed below are some of the points that should have been covered on Fox last night, instead of that televised shouting match between Bill and Geraldo. This information is widely available and was nicely summarized last December, at the Family Security Matters website:
--There were 267,000 criminal aliens in U.S. jails in 2003, a 30-fold increase over 1980 totals
--27% of all prisoners in American federal custody are criminal illegal aliens.
--In fiscal 2004, the Federal govt. spent $1.4 billion to incarcerate criminal aliens (including reimbursements to state and local governments)
--A 2005 GAO report found that many criminal illegal aliens are hard-core, repeat offenders. According to that study:
Of the 55,322 illegal aliens studied, researchers found that they were arrested a total of 459,614 times, averaging about 8 arrests per illegal alien
---They were arrested for a total of about 700,000 criminal offenses, averaging about 13
offenses per illegal alien.
---36% had been arrested on at least 5 prior occasions; 22%, 2 to 4 times; and only 12%
---49% had previously been convicted of a felony: 20% of a drug offense; 18%, a violent
offense; and 11%, other felony offenses.
---56% of those charged with a reentry offense had previously been convicted on at least 5
---81% of the arrests occurred after 1990
---Defendants charged with unlawful reentry had the most extensive criminal histories.
---90% had been previously arrested. Of those with a prior arrest, 50% had been arrested for
violent or drug-related felonies.
In other words, waves of illegal immigration over the past two decades have brought substantial numbers of career criminals to our country, and they continue their "careers" in our communities. Unfortunately, a verbal donnybrook between Mr. O'Reilly and Mr. Rivera makes for better TV than dry statistics, so many viewers are still unaware of just how serious this crime problem has become.
And obviously, this is a issue that goes far beyond the Ramos case in Virginia Beach. Governor Kaine is correct in his observation that the feds don't consistently enforce immigration laws (and that's being charitable). But Kaine and Obendorf are also symbolic of local politicians who cast a blind eye to illegals in their states and cities. As Democrats, they see large numbers of new (largely Hispanic) voters as part of powerful voting bloc that cannot be offended. Republicans--including President Bush--covet the Hispanic vote too, but they're also trying to curry favor with their chums at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Wall Street Journal editorial board, who want a steady supply of cheap labor.
But those aims clearly have a downside, as evidenced by last Friday's wreck in Virginia Beach. And, despite the loss of two young women, we'll predict that the Ramos case won't spur serious action, aside from his prosecution and imprisonment. As we've noted before, this nation will continue to ignore the illegal immigration issue until Al Qaida or some other terrorist group smuggles a nuke across one of our borders, and detonates it in a U.S. city. Maybe, at that point, everyone can finally agree on dealing with the threat posed by wide-open borders--and people like Mr. Ramos.