criminals, rest easy - there are immigrants to prosecute
Criminal prosecutions of immigrants by federal authorities surged to a record high in March, as immigration cases accounted for the majority — 57 percent — of all new federal criminal cases brought nationwide that month, according to a report published Tuesday by a nonpartisan research group.
The federal government has apparently decided that enforcing the misdemeanor charge incurred after someone crosses the border without permission is the number one law enforcement priority nationwide.
In another striking finding, the report said that 99 percent of people referred to federal prosecutors for immigration offenses in March were charged. “Any immigration case that comes through the door is going to be prosecuted,” Mr. Burnham said. “That’s astonishing.”
But sentences for those convicted were short, with the median being one month.
The point is not so much the length of time served as the future immigration
consequences for those convicted and deported.
Criminal charges often make migrants ineligible for future immigration
benefits, and a deportation typically makes a person ineligible for reentry for
10 years. This is especially
heartbreaking when you consider that many of those picked up have had to make
difficult choices about whether to stay in the
Under the border program, called Operation Streamline, prosecutors have brought criminal misdemeanor charges against immigrants caught entering the country illegally for the first time. Immigrants who were caught re-entering after they had been deported have faced tough felony charges and longer sentences.
Immigration lawyers have warned that the widespread application of criminal charges has resulted in overly hasty prosecutions and undermined immigrants’ abilities to exercise their immigration rights, which might allow them to avoid deportation.
“The federal government has decided that it’s O.K. in the criminal immigration context to shortcut the normal process,” said Kathleen Campbell Walker, the president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, the national immigration bar. “What this means is, let’s just run them through, to see how fast can we expedite justice.”
Ms. Walker, a lawyer based in El Paso, said immigrants in criminal proceedings along the border might have criminal defense lawyers but often had no chance to consult immigration lawyers. “Those niceties, you don’t have time to get to them,” she said.
So much for the right to counsel.
Meanwhile, tougher penalties for crossing may actually
increase the net number of undocumented immigrants in the
found that with increased security between 1992 and 2000, the number of Mexican migrants returning home each year went down from 20% to 7%. It is only safe to assume that those numbers have decreased dramatically in the last six years.
This is certainly true based on my experiences with my
clients. Historically this was the case
with Italian migration after Congress implemented drastically reduced quotas
for Southern European immigration in 1924 in response to a wave of nativism
triggered by the
I hope I’m not the only one who finds it problematic that the government’s law enforcement priorities are driven by a vocal, frenetic restrictionist minority.