Immigration Cases Overwhelming Courts
FEBRUARY 21, 2008
Poor planning by the U.S. government has created havoc on federal courts, leaving them overwhelmed and unable to handle the huge immigration caseload resulting from a new policy that criminally charges illegal border crossers rather than ship them back to Mexico.
Reversing the longtime U.S. policy of simply returning illegal aliens arrested at the border to Mexico, the government created a much-needed program to instead prosecute the offenders. Operation Streamline was first implemented in Texas in 2005 and last year the program was launched in Arizona because Tucson is the nation’s busiest illegal immigration sector.
The U.S. Border Patrol has referred nearly 1,000 cases to federal authorities since mid January 2008 and dozens are prosecuted daily. The Justice Department wants to process 100 cases a day, but the already overwhelmed Tucson sector courts can only process 60 defendants a day.
The chief judge in the U.S. District Court of Arizona says his system is already the busiest, sentencing 500 felons annually compared with the national average of 90. The massive surge in immigration cases has led him to ask the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to lend magistrates.
To meet federal prosecutors’ goal of 100 defendants per day, the Tucson courts would also need more attorneys and prison space. The sudden influx of immigration cases has overwhelmed the system and allowed only a fraction of the cases to be prosecuted. Authorities should have thought about this before implementing the new policy.
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