Editorial: Penalize the crime, not the thoughts, or legal status
On Thursday, three Republican state senators broke party lines to kill SB1279, which would have meant longer minimum prison sentences for people who commit crimes while in the country illegally.
It failed on a 16-14 vote. State Senator Karen Fann, R-Prescott, voted in favor.
Killing the bill was the right move. If an illegal immigrant commits a crime, then he or she deserves to be punished for that crime. But why should that crime be treated any differently than a similar crime committed by a citizen?
This bill is very much like the Democrats’ attempts to push hate crime laws, which had the justice system attempt to figure out what a suspect was thinking when he or she committed a crime and add penalties to what existing laws already mandate.
Sen. Steve Smith, R-Maricopa, was the primary sponsor and said it only makes sense to ensure that people who are breaking federal law don’t get a chance to hurt Arizonans.
Smith cited 21-year-old Grant Ronnebeck, who was shot and killed two years ago by someone not in this country legally. He claims the suspect had committed a prior burglary but was placed on probation, enabling him to kill Ronnebeck.
“He didn’t serve a day in jail,” Smith said.
That incident is tragic. The suspect, Apolinar Altamirano, asked for cigarettes and tried to pay with a bunch of change. When he didn’t get his cigarettes fast enough, he shot and killed the young convenience store clerk.
So lock him up for murder. Find out why an illegal immigrant who was arrested for burglary was allowed to stay in the country, and deal with that.
Adding time to a life sentence isn’t going to make the murder of Grant Ronnebeck any less tragic.
Penalize people for the crimes they commit, and treat all people the same. If an illegal immigrant commits a crime, then he or she will no doubt have immigration problems in addition to criminal problems. He or she should face justice and endure the sentence the court decides is fair.
What is the purpose of tougher penalties? As hate crimes increase across our nation, we’ve seen that the hate crime laws passed haven’t been much of a deterrent.
Is it to keep the criminals off the streets longer? Well, when our criminal justice system is done with them, they will be deported and another country’s problem. The nation is taking steps to make our border secure, so returning to the United States will be difficult and expensive.
So why do this?
There is no need to make the criminal justice system more complicated. Penalize the crime, not what others think were the thoughts behind it. Send someone to jail for their actions, enforcing the laws already on the books.