Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Border to Get More Prosecutors & More Jail Space

Today's San Antonio Express-News has a couple of articles of interest to practitioners along the border (and immigration policy wonks).

In "Prosecutors Near Border to Get Help," we learn that DOJ is adding 25 new prosecutors to the five southwestern border districts, 20 of whom will focus on prosecuting immigration-related offenses.

The move comes on the heels of reports that heightened border enforcement is overwhelming the criminal justice system. It also follows claims last week from some members of Congress that a few of the 94 U.S. attorney offices in the country have been forced to forego prosecutions because of staffing and supply shortages.

A June article in the federal judiciary's newsletter [blogged here] said the increase in enforcement was creating a crisis in the border courts. Judges and prosecutors in the article predicted that some criminal cases would have to be dismissed or rejected unless more prosecutors were hired to handle the workload brought by increases in border agents.

Of course, adding more prosecutors without a corresponding increase in court resources will likely exacerbate the problems faced by courts on the border.

Court officials, who continue to absorb a huge workload without equitable increases in staff, met the announcement with some frustration.

"Congress has really looked at enforcement primarily, adding more Border Patrol and immigration agents. Now the prosecution side (increases)," said Bill Putnicki, court clerk of the Western District of Texas. "But I don't know if they've really looked at what happens to the people after they get arrested."

In related news, the private prison industry in South Texas is booming.

A Florida-based prison management company announced Tuesday that it will expand the South Texas Detention Complex in Pearsall to house an additional 884 immigration detainees, increasing the capacity to 1,904.

GEO Group Inc. said the expansion will not require new construction and has been approved to meet the future bed needs of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement as it implements its "Secure Border Initiative" on the nation's southern border.

The article doesn't explain how GEO will nearly double the bedspace of the facility without any new construction. "Tent-like domes," perhaps?

Aside from the Pearsall complex, ICE has contracted to have 500 beds available at a detention facility in Raymondville, Rusnok said. That facility, which uses tent-like domes for detainees, opened Tuesday.


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