Illegal immigrants overwhelming federal courts
David McNew/Getty Images Illegal immigration is in the news again. The L.A. Times reports today that U.S. prosecutions of illegal immigrants, most of whom have come across the U.S.-Mexico border in Texas and Southern California, are at an all-time high. In March, 9,350 illegal immigrants reportedly faced federal charges, up from 3,746 a year ago. ...
David McNew/Getty Images
Illegal immigration is in the news again. The L.A. Times reports today that U.S. prosecutions of illegal immigrants, most of whom have come across the U.S.-Mexico border in Texas and Southern California, are at an all-time high. In March, 9,350 illegal immigrants reportedly faced federal charges, up from 3,746 a year ago. Most of those convicted have been put in the pen for about a month.
The prosecutions are part of a broader attempt to crack down on illegal immigration — including other measures such as work-site raids– in light of Congress’s failed attempts last summer to pass a comprehensive immigration bill. But has the increase in prosecutions actually done anything to stem the immigrant wave? Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff thinks so:
The reason this works is because these illegal migrants come to realize that violating the law will not simply send them back to try over again but will require them to actually serve some short period of time in a jail or prison setting, and will brand them as having been violators of the law… That has a very significant deterrent impact.”
It seems the thousands of immigrants still trying to come across the border haven’t gotten Chertoff’s message. If miles of treacherous desert and the threat of being kidnapped by notorious coyote smugglers aren’t enough to deter folks seeking a better economic future, why would a month in jail make much difference? The prosecutions seem like just another punitive measure that, along with beefed-up border patrols and increased border fence construction, hasn’t had much impact thus far.
What the prosecution efforts have done is overburden an already overstretched federal court system. Immigration cases accounted for more than half of the 16,298 federal criminal prosecutions recorded nationwide in March. Public defenders are overwhelmed by the volume of immigration cases and the challenges they present, including language barriers and the sad state their clients are often in after having spent days sweltering in the desert. So far, it looks like Chertoff’s plan is deterring one thing — the ability of more important federal cases to take priority in court.
More from Foreign Policy
Chinese Hospitals Are Housing Another Deadly Outbreak
Authorities are covering up the spread of antibiotic-resistant pneumonia.
Henry Kissinger, Colossus on the World Stage
The late statesman was a master of realpolitik—whom some regarded as a war criminal.
The West’s False Choice in Ukraine
The crossroads is not between war and compromise, but between victory and defeat.
Washington wants to get tough on China, and the leaders of the House China Committee are in the driver’s seat.