Thursday, May 23, 2013

Immigration Cases Strain Justice System and Threaten Rights

Human Rights Watch released a report today entitled Turning Migrants Into Criminals: The Harmful Impact of US Border Prosecutions. This 82-page report captures in detail the rise of illegal entry and illegal reentry prosecutions, the cost on our judicial system, and the resulting toll on human rights.

As the Human Rights Watch news release states:
The US government claims these prosecutions are necessary to keep dangerous criminals from entering the United States and to deter illegal immigration. But the immigration prosecutions are not meeting their purported goals.
Instead, many of those targeted for prosecution are non-citizens with minor or no criminal histories. In 2011, 27 percent of those prosecuted for entry crimes had no prior felony convictions, and only 27 percent had criminal convictions considered "most serious" by the US Sentencing Commission, such as a conviction for a crime of violence or a firearms offense. A decade earlier, in 2002, 42 percent had criminal histories considered "most serious" and 17 percent had no prior felony convictions.
Texas Magistrate Judge Felix Recio told Human Rights Watch that the US government has created a "felony class" of non-citizens: "Where there’s no criminal history, no immigration history, the criminalization of these defendants is something that’s very difficult [for me]." Defense attorneys noted that even among people with more serious records, many have very old convictions and have lived law-abiding lives for years.
Moreover, many of those who enter or reenter the US unlawfully do so for reasons completely unrelated to conventional notions of criminal activity, such as the desire to reunite with family or because they are fleeing violence and persecution abroad. US District Judge Robert Brack, who estimated he has sentenced over 11,000 people for illegal reentry, stated, "For 10 years now, I’ve been presiding over a process that destroys families every day and several times each day."
Yet rather than evaluating whether these prosecutions are meeting their intended goals, the US government seems intent on doing more of the same. Recent data from the US Department of Justice indicates that in the first six months of fiscal year 2013, immigration prosecutions were up 10 percent.

Meanwhile, an increase in immigration prosecutions seems to be necessary ingredient to any comprehensive immigration reform in an attempt to achieve that elusive "secure" border. As U.S. District Judge Royal Furgeson Jr. pointed out on his editorial, Immigration reform must adequately fund the federal courts, in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, the "U.S. Senate bill sets aside $6.5 billion for immigration enforcement agents and new prosecutors—potentially tripling federal immigration cases in some Southwest border areas. But none of that money is for the courts," which includes the federal defenders and probation and pre-trial officers. 




Post a Comment

<< Home