Had Sharafat Ali Khan been an American citizen, he likely would have been sentenced to 37 months in prison for masterminding a smuggling ring that brought more than 100 illegal immigrants from Pakistan and Afghanistan to the United States.

Instead, a federal judge in the District of Columbia sentenced Khan to only 31 months in October because he’s a deportable alien.

It’s one of the quirks of the American justice system. Because illegal immigrants and other criminal aliens usually aren’t released into halfway houses for fear they’ll abscond, they can — at least in some courtrooms — get a lesser sentence all around.

U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton, who sentenced Khan, said that if he’d given the human trafficker the full 37-month prison term, “the penalty that you experience is in fact be greater than the punishment U.S. citizens endure.”