if we don’t deport natives who are criminals, why do we deport immigrant criminals?

I’m a hard core supporter of open borders, the view that we should let people travel peacefully across borders. However, for many years, I agreed with the restrictionist view that it is appropriate to deport criminals. And not those who violate unjust immigration “laws.” I thought that deportation was appropriate for those convicted of actual crimes against people, like assault or theft.

I have come to question this view after I realized that we don’t deport native born criminals. This observation made me to think about why we don’t deport native born criminals. I can think of four very persuasive reasons:

  1. Deportation is an extremely harsh punishment that is not appropriate for most crimes. If you steal a car, you may deserve a few months in prison. You don’t deserve to be sent to a country where you don’t know people, where you have to start over from scratch, and, in some cases, where you might be killed.
  2. Restitution is unlikely. That is, if part of the reason we put people in prison is to “pay back” the victims or the state, then it makes no sense to deport them. The penal system has no way to collect fines or money for victims if the criminal has been deported.
  3. No rehabilitation. If you believe that criminals have the potential to be rehabilitated, then deportation prevents people from the chance to show improvement. If you deport them after they have served time and they have been rehabilitated, then it undermines the impulse for rehabilitation.
  4. Harm to friends and relatives: Criminals have spouses, children, and friends. It is bad enough to have a parent spend time in prison. It is much, much worse to have them sent to another country. Perhaps criminals deserve the punishment and humiliation of prison and deportation but their children don’t.

I also think there is a “spill over effect” of deportation. Enemies of immigrants will expand the scope of deportable offenses if they know that criminal convictions allow the state to deport people.

To sum it up: Deportation is cruel, prevents rehabilitation, prevents restitution, and creates negative externalities. So make them do the time and move on with their lives.

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Written by fabiorojas

February 27, 2017 at 12:05 am

4 Responses

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  1. I might be missing something in your argument, but the main reason countries don’t deport native-born criminals is that there is nowhere to deport them to…
    Note that some European countries used to deport their own nationals to remote colonies (UK to Australia, France to Guyane, etc.) but, as far as I know, the end of colonies also put an end to that practice (you could of course argue about the status of French overseas territories).



    February 27, 2017 at 9:11 am

  2. Giles: To the contrary, states – when they want to – will deport people to places they did not originate from. The term is “exile.” States will also move people against their will into other states (see the “extraordinary rendition” program).



    February 27, 2017 at 3:12 pm

  3. Giles: Also, remember, sometimes states deport people just by dumping them at the border. This was the case in the 1980 Mariel boatlift.



    February 27, 2017 at 4:06 pm

  4. I am no fan of deportation for anyone, but the issues are somewhat different for native-born criminals. One of the hallmarks of citizenship is the right to return to the country to which you belong. In particular, there are constitutional barriers to deporting citizens that don’t apply in the case of immigrants (see, for example, Trope v. Dulles 1958, which holds that you cannot strip the citizenship of a citizen as a punishment for a crime). This sort of thing may not be very persuasive as a moral, ethical, or sociological argument, but the “whys” of such matters often come down most fundamentally to what is legally permissible.



    February 28, 2017 at 12:15 am

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