Not all plea bargains are created equal
QUICK! What do Salvatore "Sammy the Bull" Gravano, Spiro "Mr. Nolo Contendere" Agnew and Juan "Apple Picker" Martinez have in common?
All three are criminals, but only two were allowed to strike a deal with the government for a "get out of jail free" card.
America has a long, rich history of making plea deals with some of the most despicable people on the planet. Curiously, politicians and even the public in general seem to want plea bargains limited to murderers, rapists, thugs and corrupt politicians -- and not extended to people whose only crime is that they crossed a border to bust their buns doing some of the most back-breaking jobs in the United States.
See, this is what I don't get about the current so-called "illegal alien" debate: Many people are saying that the only way to deal with the millions of migrant workers from Mexico and points farther south is to first send them home and make them apply to enter our country. It's not right to allow them to stay, because they broke the law to get here and that can't be tolerated, the argument goes.
I think the reason so many people, including Democrat and Republican politicians, are mouthing that line is because it's easy to say. You came here illegally, therefore you have to leave before you can partake of the wonderful bounty that is America.
LET'S IGNORE, for the moment, that it is exactly the "wonderful bounty" that these "illegals" are picking from our fruit orchards, digging from our fields and preparing in our restaurant kitchens. They are also taking care of our children (See: Federal Judge Kimba Wood steps down as Bill Clinton's nominee for attorney general after admitting she violated federal law by employing an illegal alien as a nanny); our housekeepers (See: Zoe Baird steps down as Clinton's nominee for attorney general because she employed a couple illegally here from Peru as housekeepers) and our lawn boys (See: any large Hollywood mansion.)
Let's ignore all that and focus on the idea that there should be no negotiations with the millions of undocumented workers; they simply have to be sent home because they "broke the law."
The fact is we negotiate with people who "break the law" every day. Right now in Honolulu's state and federal courts, plea bargains are being struck with a wide variety of scumbags and miscreants that will keep them out of jail. Honolulu police just this weekend shot to death a hardened criminal with a history of 23 CONVICTIONS for violent crimes who was still walking Hawaii's streets.
Which brings us back to "Sammy The Bull" Gravano and "Nolo Contendere" Agnew. Gravano was a notorious gangster and hitman for mob boss John Gotti. He admitting killing 19 people. Nineteen people! And yet the government still struck a deal with him that allowed him to avoid jail.
Vice President Spiro Agnew took bribes as governor of Maryland and later pleaded no contest in federal court to not paying taxes on the bribes. The "nolo contendere" plea allowed him to avoid even admitting that he was guilty.
The point is, our government is willing to make plea bargains with people like these two jerks and yet we can't plea bargain with Juan "The Apple Picker" Martinez, who's simply here to work?
Juan is a character I made up to represent the millions of people from south of the border who have snuck into the United States, not to become underworld hitmen or corrupt politicians, but to work and make money for their families.
At the risk of infuriating both "Send 'em Home!" conservatives and "Limousine Liberals" spoiled from exploiting cheap alien labor as nannies and gardeners, this is what we should do:
» Seal the borders.
» Let undocumented workers plead "no contest" to misdemeanor charges of entering America illegally. Those convictions would be erased after a year if the workers commit no more crimes (See: Plea deal with Rush Limbaugh, doctor shopping.)
» Grant the migrant workers temporary worker visas (which is done routinely in places like Guam, where workers are imported from China and the Philippines).
» Prosecute businesses that use undocumented immigrants (the "no contest" plea will become very, very popular).
» Realize that workers from south of the border are an important part of American business (or else there wouldn't be so many of them).
» Quit making deals with violent scumbags like "Sammy the Bull" and Mr. 23 Convictions from Hawaii.
, the National Society of Newspaper Columnists' 2004 First Place Award winner for humor writing, appears Sundays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org