Is Illegal Entry the Crime You’re Most Afraid Of?

Guess what crime is the most prosecuted at the federal level in the United States? Rape? Murder? Assault? Robbery? Racketeering? Financial fraud?

Actually, no. It's illegal entry and re-entry. And I don't mean people trespassing into your home or office. That would be scary indeed. What I mean is people being prosecuted for crossing our northern or southern border without authorization.

Given the Attorney General's recent articulation of the federal government's prosecutorial priorities – namely, national security, violent crime, financial fraud, and protection of our society's most vulnerable – this doesn't make a whole lot of sense. And despite what you may think, there's actually no solid evidence that these prosecutions actually deter future illegal migration, the Department of Homeland Security's assumptions notwithstanding (see here and p.17 here).

Over the course of five years, the Obama administration has presided over about 400,000 criminal prosecutions of immigrants whom the federal government could have simply sent through the regular civil immigration system. But instead, the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security are cycling them first through the criminal justice system, pouring billions of taxpayer dollars into their prosecution and incarceration that could otherwise be spent fighting real public safety concerns.

These unnecessary incarcerations also add to the strain on a prison system that's already nearly 40 percent over capacity. Meanwhile, the immigrants themselves are slapped with federal criminal records that could stand in the way of their return to the United States – regardless of family, community, or economic ties in the country.

In FY 2013 alone, U.S. Attorneys' offices filed criminal charges against more than 90,000 immigrants for illegal entry or illegal re-entry under the federal criminal code – at an annual cost, for incarceration alone, that's been estimated at $1 billion.

The vast majority of these individuals were convicted, and eventually deported and counted among U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement's (ICE) annual removal numbers. But first, U.S. taxpayers spent billions of dollars on their criminal prosecution and their incarceration, including significant funding for district courts, U.S. Attorneys offices, federal public defenders, Criminal Justice Act panel attorneys, court interpreters, and prison. (Even so, their court proceedings fail to meet basic standards of due process.)

Recently, ICE – the federal government's interior immigration enforcement agency – has faced both criticism and praise for its fiscal year 2013 removal numbers, released just days before Christmas. ICE's 368,644 removals last year marked the lowest annual deportation level under the Obama administration, even as President Obama's Department of Homeland Security closes in on a record 2 million deportations, likely in the coming weeks.

But the fact is that these numbers don't tell the whole story. ICE is not the only player in the deportation game. In a prime example of misplaced priorities, our federal criminal justice system is playing an overzealous role in it too.

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Anonymous

He's either doing that under pressure from the all-Republican Congress we seem to have these days (or at least the all COKE-lobbied Congress,) or he has some flaw I previously didn't know exists. Since I have no way of accessing immigration deportations for 2009, the only year he DIDN'T work with a mostly Republican Congress, I'll reserve my judgment. If 2009 is just as bad as the other years, then I'll have to go with the flaw in the personality suggestion.
But he wanted to go to war with Syria - and I AGREED with it - but all these damn war protesters crawled out of the woodwork like the termites they seem to BE in this case, and brought up the most ILLogical defenses for peace that I ever heard. The worst being when they offered the following logic: "Because we weren't responding to every single solitary country that was abusing their citizens we have no business doing anything in Syria."
What the hell is that? NObody can respond to over 250 countries and to every last thing that happens, and the damn protesters DAMN WELL KNOW IT.
You might as well say "A beach full of starfish should be left that way b/c saving one won't rescue ALL of them. Some will die on the beach, so the solution is clear. Do absolutely NOTHING, including saving the ones you can, b/c you're going to lose some."
Well excuse me if I think that logic ISN'T rational. It's CERTAINLY no humanitarian response to humans suffering the worst atrocities imaginable.
It's unadulterated and utter bullsh*t, and it proves to me the people who would have you believe they care about everybody actually care about nobody. They seem to take an interest in the IDEA of being absolute moralists while rejecting the reality that you don't always get to do it that way.
The poet said "If I can stop one heart from breaking, I shall not live in vain."
Ignoring a few people who could have been saved b/c not EVERYone will be is the most reprehensible thought I've ever been unfortunate enough to witness in a person.

Anonymous

OK - what then is the ACLU's solution to preventing foreign nationals from illegally crossing US borders or overstaying their visas? Laws that are not backed up by enforcement measures might was well not be written in the first place. Do you think de-segregation would have occurred without the threat or use of force?

Anonymous

Doesn't even TOUCH ax murderers.
That's the crime I'M most afraid of.

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