In a unanimous opinion made public this morning, a three-member panel of judges with the Missouri Court of Appeals in the Eastern District sent a pointed -- some might say ironic -- message to illegal immigrants who desire to live the rest of their lives in America but are then caught up in violent sex crimes: be careful what you wish for.
When an illegal immigrant is determined to be a sexually violent predator, his or her alien status should not lead to deportation, ruled the judges. Rather, they said, those foreign-born offenders should be confined to a secure facility, just like any other sexually violent predator in Missouri.
And if you read between the lines, that disposition, one might argue, amounts to a lifetime sentence with the state's Sex Offender Rehabilitation and Treatment Services program, run by the Missouri Department of Mental Health down in Farmington. Since the facility opened its doors about a decade ago, 177 offenders have been committed. No one has ever left.
The judges' ruling ignites a fresh immigration debate on the heels of the U.S. Supreme Court's announcement yesterday that it will weigh in on Arizona's contentious racial-profiling bill next year.
In his appeal from the Circuit Court of St. Louis County, Javier Calleja, a foreign national from Mexico, argued that, since he is an illegal immigrant, his alien status should have been considered by the probate court, which decides whom to admit to the Farmington facility.
Calleja had previously pleaded guilty to first-degree statutory sodomy. While serving a five-year prison sentence, the state filed a petition to involuntarily commit him as a sexually violent predator and requested that the probate court exclude all evidence of his illegal alien status, as well as any deportation order. The state called his immigration status "irrelevant and prejudicial."
During the trial, psychologist Richard Scott testified that Calleja, in his judgment, was a sexually violent predator and was more likely than not to commit another predatory act of sexual violence if not confined in a secure facility.
In its ruling, the appeals court agreed with the state, calling Calleja's immigration status "irrelevent" to the probate court's decision.
It certainly raises an interesting debate. If Calleja is such a danger to society, nobody wants him out on the streets -- on any street, in any country -- at least in the short-term. But since Calleja entered the United States illegally, should American taxpayers be on the hook to fund his detention? Perhaps for the rest of his life?
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