Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Feeling Busier Lately?

That's not suprising, given the recent explosion in the number of immigration prosecutions. As a new report from the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University reveals, "the number of all kinds of federal criminal prosecutions peaked at 169,612 cases in FY 2009, up nearly 9 percent from the previous year's total of 155,694 and 42 percent from five years ago when prosecutions came to only 119,492."

Immigration prosecutions clocked in at 91,899, or 54% of the total number of prosecutions. Of those, 92% were for illegal entry (8 U.S.C. § 1325) and illegal reentry (8 U.S.C. § 1326). As recently as FY 2007 there were fewer than 40,000 immigration prosecutions.
The next largest FY 2009 Justice Department category was drugs, currently representing only 16 percent of the total. This was down from a high point reached during the 1997 war on drugs when such cases made up 37 percent. Looked at over the 24 years since these records began, no other category has ever so dominated the basic work of federal prosecutors.

And defense attorneys, too.

So where are all these cases coming from?
[T]he FBI—which at one time was the premier investigative agency with the largest share of investigations resulting in prosecutions—has now slid to fourth place, accounting for only 8.7 percent of the FY 2009 filings. Leading the pack last year was Customs and Border Protection in the Department of Homeland Security, which includes the Border Patrol, with 46.5 percent of all prosecutions. Coming second was Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) with 12 percent, also in Homeland Security. In third place was the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) which accounted for 9.5 percent of all prosecutions.

The New York Times adds this bit of background (of which many of you are probably already well aware):
Much of the spike, immigration experts say, arises from Bush administration efforts to increase immigration enforcement and to speed prosecutions. The administration greatly increased the number of Border Patrol agents and prosecutors, and also introduced a program known as Operation Streamline that relied on large-scale processing of plea deals in immigrant cases in some parts of the country.

Will the trend continue? And if so, for how long? "Too soon to say," says TRAC:
While nine months of FY 2009—ending on September 30—occurred during the Obama Administration, changing the enforcement policies in the federal government has always been a challenge. Also, because of the natural delays in the processing of criminal matters, the actual investigations for a number of the FY 2009 prosecutions were initiated some time before Mr. Obama became president. (Equally so, an unknown number of potential criminal matters that were not prosecuted during the first months of the Obama years were the result of negative decisions made by the agencies and the U.S. Attorneys during Bush Administration.)

Links via Bender's Immigration Daily.


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