the "worst of the worst" ... or just an easy conviction?
Apparently an incarceration ratio of 1 in 100, while good enough for
Federal authorities are cracking down on immigrants who were previously deported and then reentered the country illegally -- a crime that now makes up more than one-third of all prosecutions in
Los Angelesand surrounding counties, a Times review of attorney's statistics shows. U.S.
Most of these prisoners were probably removed through an
administrative removal proceeding after coming to the
But there are serious consequences if someone previously
deported decides to come back to be with their children or spouse, or out of
economic desperation. Then the outcome
of the previous administrative proceeding is used against them in criminal
"They are some of the worst of the worst," said Julie L. Myers, assistant secretary of Immigration and Customs Enforcement in
. "They are people that citizens of any community would want off the streets." Washington
Is this Julie Myers? Check. Is she making a public statement? Check. Then there’s a high probability that what she’s saying is not true.
"I just wish that were true," said Jerry Salseda, a deputy federal public defender who has represented scores of illegal immigrants charged with reentering the country after having been deported. He and other critics say people who committed minor crimes years ago have been caught up in the wave of prosecutions.
Bruce J. Einhorn, a former immigration court judge, said the
attorney's office should spend more resources going after smugglers rather than illegal crossers. U.S.
"That would do more to stop dangerous illegal immigration than by prosecuting a few more undocumented people who have reentered illegally," he said.
Einhorn also questioned the efficacy of the prosecutions, because people's motivations to return -- reuniting with small children and escaping poverty -- often outweigh time behind bars.
In years past, many of those now being prosecuted for illegal reentry would have simply been deported. Now they are being sent to prison first. Sentences can be as long as 20 years, but most defendants receive three to five years, prosecutors said.
But one would hope these defendants would at least have the
benefit of due process protections inherent in the criminal justice
system. Not entirely, as it turns out,
since they’re not
Thom Mrozek, spokesman for the
U.S.attorney's office in , said the cases make up a large percentage of the overall number prosecuted by the office, but they do not represent an undue drain on resources or hinder other types of prosecutions. That's because the reentry cases are easy to prove, he said, rarely go to trial and don't require much time. Los Angeles
To win a conviction, prosecutors need to prove three things: that the defendant is in the
, that he or she is not legally permitted to be here and that the person had been formally deported in the past. United States
A side benefit of such easy-to-prove cases is that they can be made when there isn't enough evidence to convict illegal immigrants on other charges, said Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, a group that advocates tighter enforcement of immigration laws.
As usual, the government views lack of procedural guarantees for immigrants as a feature, not a bug of the current system. The subjects of this process—the migrants—are virtually invisible, their rights unacknowledged and unconsidered. They are legal ciphers. The government argues that increased prosecutions of the already-deported are not a waste of resources—just look how easy it is to get a conviction! Those who have formulated this approach do not care one whit about the human consequences of the policy. Even many of those who argue against this vindictive policy do so not on the basis of harm to individuals and families, but on the ground that, contrary to government assurances, these prosecutions do take valuable resources away from other cases.
Even within the
attorney's office, some prosecutors -- particularly veteran lawyers who have risen to supervisory levels -- have regarded the cases as distractions that take time away from more meaningful work. U.S.
William Carter, who was chief of the environmental section when he resigned in 2006, said he recalled some illegal re-entry cases that were triggered by relatively minor crimes such as DUIs, traffic offenses and even jaywalking.
"With some of these cases, why are we bothering?" he said. "You need to do something about the border. You don't do it by throwing people in jail."
This LA Times article is much better (aside from the headline) than other articles I’ve seen in venues around the country which parrot the government’s stated reasons for punitive, unjust anti-migrant policies. But I’ll keep hoping for more stories that are migrant-centered, stories about human beings and the devastation our government’s policies are causing them.