Today, Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) released a new report that showed that federal immigration prosecutions reached an all time high this past March.
9,350 defendants were prosecuted in March of 2008, two and a half times more than in January, and 73% higher than the previous year. Those that were convicted served an average of one month in jail.
According to the LA Times, these prosecutions are “among the most visible steps in a larger effort that includes work-site raids, increased border patrols, and the use of technology and fences.”
This recent surge in prosecutions has overwhelmed the federal court system, and now they have even surpassed drug offense cases. Some defense attorneys are also concerned for the well-being of their clients, many of whom are taken straight to court after spending days in the desert, and may not be competent enough to plead or to even understand what is happening.
This new initiative is being lauded as having a significant impact on deterrence because those convicted are serving jail time. I’m not convinced of any positive so-called “impact.” If it is having any impact, I would say that it is ripping families apart and potentially endangering the lives of those who enter this highly dysfunctional prison and deportation system.
Prosecuting immigrants is not a method of immigration control, as much as some would like to believe. The only thing that the administration is doing is spending money to prosecute and deport those that have successfully crossed the border. They are not engaging in real, creative reform that efficiently and intelligently addresses border security and the roots of immigration while ensuring the health, welfare, and yes, even the dignity of those whose only crime is the “pursuit of happiness.”