Judge Warns Prosecutors on Immigration Cases

One major problem with attempting to use criminal prosecutions to deter illegal immigration is that U.S. courts simply aren't able to handle the resulting cases. While an attempt to file federal misdemeanor charges for illegal border crossings has decreased the number of migrants arrested along the Rio Grande, it is also threatening to overwhelm federal courts along the U.S.-Mexico border. Via The Monitor of McAllen, Texas:

U.S. Customs and Border Protection largely credits the disparity between declining apprehensions and rising prosecutions to one initiative—Operation Streamline.

Launched in Del Rio in 2005, the program places nearly every migrant caught crossing the border into criminal proceedings. Before, U.S. Border Patrol agents would detain first-time illegal migrants with no criminal history, slap them with a civil violation and return them to their home country.

Now, most are charged with federal misdemeanors. If this is a second or third offense, the consequences can result in a felony charge....

But while Streamline may have proven effective in rural areas like far West Texas and the Arizona border, courthouses in more urban centers like Laredo, McAllen and Brownsville have begun to show strain.

Laredo, which launched the program two years later, has seen nearly a 320-percent spike in misdemeanor prosecutions—from 3,260 in fiscal year 2007 to 13,664 in 2009—according to statistics provided by the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

The increased caseload is severe enough that federal judge in Austin issued an opinion last week putting prosecutors on notice that they would have to justify to the court every prosecution of a migrant without a criminal history. “The expenses of prosecuting illegal entry and re-entry cases on aliens without any significant criminal history is simply mind-boggling,” wrote Judge Sam Sparks.

For more Reason on immigration reform, see "Immigration Now, Immigration Tomorrow, Immigration Forever" from the August/September 2006 issue.

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  • Old Mexican||

    Laredo, which launched the program two years later, has seen nearly a 320-percent spike in misdemeanor prosecutions—from 3,260 in fiscal year 2007 to 13,664 in 2009—according to statistics provided by the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

    The government has the knowledge and foresight to fix this problem created by the total lack of knowledge and foresight from the government.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Uh-oh. It better not get more expensive than the cost of a wall.

  • ||

    The increased caseload is severe enough that federal judge in Austin issued an opinion last week putting prosecutors on notice that they would have to justify to the court every prosecution of a migrant without a criminal history.

    Not to opine on the merits or anything, but isn't this kind of circular?

    These people are accused of a crime, yes? Since the court won't hear the case unless they've already been convicted, how's that supposed to work? How is the first conviction supposed to get on the books unless you can bring cases against people who don't have any?

  • ||

    It seems the judge is saying, roughly, "If you bring me cases where people are driving 5 miles over the speed limit, we won't be able to try the reckless drivers you discover. Please stop it."

    Alternatively, the judge could be saying, "Don't prosecute people for illegal entry alone. Only prosecute people who are criminals or who actually commit, you know, crimes."

  • ||

    He's not saying "please" -- he's saying he'll dismiss charges against anyone who is not guilty of another crime, even if there's evidence of them being guilty of illegal entry. That's fucked up.

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: RC Dean,

    The federal judge is talking about only trying cases of illegal immigrants that have criminal (i.e. felony) records. Crossing the border with no permit or visa is considered a misdemeanor. The request actually makes sense.

  • Old Mexican||

    Yeah, what MikeP said.

  • ||

    This is just crazy. First, the gov't says charge them for their crimes, now the judges say its a hassle. So again, will the justice system let the illegals get away with their crimes? Just shut down the stinking border already if they cannot handle dealing with the illegals. This is a joke. Deport them all !

  • ||

    So, we have a judge choosing which laws he will follow based on time constraints? Set up another court if you have to.

  • T||

    Am I supposed to have any respect for the justice system at all anymore? It's too time-consuming and inconvenient to prosecute people for breaking laws, so only bother us when they break the really important ones? Here's a novel idea: if it's not important enough to prosecute, it's not important enough to be a crime. Goddamn, I wanna burn shit down and start over.

  • Federal Dog||

    They're too busy processing drug and forfeiture cases.

  • ||

    All expenses incurred by the U.S. government with regard to illegals should be charged to their home country in the form of import fees.

    Being here illegally should also count as a special circumstance, if that person is charged with a felony, and result in increased jail time.

  • ||

    All expenses incurred by the U.S. government with regard to illegals should be charged to their home country U.S. citizens and residents in the form of import fees.

    Scratch an anti-illegal immigration zealot, find a mercantilist.

  • ||

    OK, tax remittances.

    Scratch a supporter of illegal alien benefits, find a marxist.

  • ||

    The only "benefit" I support for illegal aliens is their inalienable right to travel, reside, work, and associate wherever they can find agreeable voluntary terms.

    To be fair, I do not have a huge problem with aliens receiving the universal mandated benefits of emergency health care and schooling for their children, just as I don't have a huge problem with poor citizens who get the same benefits.

    But I do not believe that any immigrants, legal or not, or their children, citizen or not, should receive targeted government benefits. Welfare must not be a draw for any migration, legal or illegal.

  • D.R.M.||

    Judge, the justification is, the people being brought up on charges of breaking the law of the United States. A law that is, unlike drug possession, health care, sexual harassment, antitrust, campaign finance, insider trading, gun control, or growing wheat on your own land, actually within the competence of the Federal Government under the Constitution of the United States of America.

    It's stupid, wasteful policy to bring the cases, sure. But policy is for the political branches to determine, not the judicial. If the judge actually does dismiss the cases? Impeach his ass.

  • ||

    ...actually within the competence of the Federal Government under the Constitution of the United States of America.

    How so?

  • D.R.M.||

    The power to set a uniform rule of naturalization covers every degree of grant of rights associated with citizenship. Under precedent going back past the Constitution into English common law, entry into the nation and domicile are rights of citizens that are not rights of non-citizens.

    To go at it the other way, the exception proves the rule form of legal construction also implies this. The special exception preventing Congress from limiting the "Migration or Importation of such Persons as any of the States now existing shall think proper to admit" until 1808 implies that there otherwise is a general authority of Congress to limit both the importation of slaves (otherwise controllable under the Commerce Clause) and to limit non-importation migration.

  • ||

    Under precedent going back past the Constitution into English common law, entry into the nation and domicile are rights of citizens that are not rights of non-citizens.

    It seems that Tucker's Blackstone disagrees with you...

    The common law has affixed such distinct and appropriate ideas to the terms denization, and naturalization, that they can not be confounded together, or mistaken for each other in any legal transaction whatever. They are so absolutely distinct in their natures, that in England the rights they convey, can not both be given by the same power; the king can make denizens, by his grant, or letters patent, but nothing but an act of parliament can make a naturalized subject.... The power of naturalization, and not that of denization, being delegated to congress, and the power of denization not being prohibited to the states by the constitution, that power ought not to be considered as given to congress, but, on the contrary, as being reserved to the states.... It might therefore have been extremely impolitic in the states to have surrendered the right of denization, as well as that of naturalization to the federal government, inasmuch as it might have operated to discourage migration to those states, which have lands to dispose of, and settle; since, it might be a disagreeable alternative to the states, either to permit aliens to hold lands within their territory, or to exclude all who have not yet completed their probationary residence within the U. States, so as to become naturalized citizens, from purchasing, or holding lands, until they should have acquired all other rights appertaining to that character.
  • ||

    As for your second justification... the less said about the attempt to glean a general principle from the wording of a compromise on the expiration of an unmentionable institution, the better.

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  • Short term loans||

    Not sure I agree that Tucker Blackstone is the authoritative source on the matter.

    I do not like the short term loans approach to long term loam problems.

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