It has been said that a society ought to focus its criminal justice system to go after the people we have reason to be afraid of, not just the people we might be angry with. This is true whether those we send our law enforcement agents after are natural-born citizens, legal residents or those who are here in violation of immigration law.
And this was, apparently, the thinking behind the recent nationwide sweep carried out by the ongoing Operation Cross Check.
It is the correct approach.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials announced Monday that they had nabbed more than 3,100 people who were not simply in the country without proper documentation, but were continuing to reside here despite the fact that they had been convicted of one or more serious crimes.
Some, reportedly, had already been deported at least once and illegally crossed the border again which, unlike such violations as overstaying a visa, is a clear felony. Others had already served sometimes lengthy prison terms for such offenses as murder, drug trafficking, sex crimes or assault, but were released before federal agents had the power they now have to hold such people for deportation. Still more had been ordered to leave the country due to their criminal records, but had failed to do so.
Sorting such truly dangerous people from the millions more who are here without permission, but who otherwise lead inoffensive lives, may seem more difficult than just sweeping out everyone who is in violation of immigration law. But this Obama administration policy is the right thing to do, for several reasons.
It is more humane. It is less likely to break up families, separate parents from children, husbands from wives, breadwinners from dependents.
It is more efficient. It concentrates the finite resources of ICE agents, federal prosecutors and the many local and state agencies that work with them on the task of ferreting out the truly dangerous thugs. That not only makes life safer for the general populace, but also for the many other members of the immigrant community who are the most likely to be victims of the true criminals' behavior.
And, thus, it is better law enforcement. If the merely undocumented have reason to hope that the police are after killers, rapists and traffickers of drugs and of human beings they will be much more likely to come forward and help the police in their adopted land round up the really violent people who threaten us all.