Enforcement Statistics Show Increase in Immigration Cases

Here is a cautionary tale for anyone who might be tempted to try save money by taking a “do-it-yourself” approach to immigration paperwork. False economy is bad enough when it leads to increased expenses, and ends up costing more than it would have taken to get good advice in the first instance. In some cases, this approach could land you in jail, as immigration enforcement efforts continue to intensify.

Compared to 2008, federal prosecutions increased by nine percent in 2009, to a total of 169,612, according to a Syracuse University report cited by the New York Times. (See: Immigration Enforcement Fuels Rise in U.S. Cases,” by John Schwartz, New York Times, Dec 22, 2009.) The Syracuse University report found that more than half of these prosecutions were immigration cases, up almost 16 percent from last year.

Why the big increase in immigration prosecutions? The New York Times article cites immigration experts who attribute this to Bush-era policies that have continued into the Obama years: in particular, the continued expansion of the Border Patrol and use of fast-track procedures to prosecute immigration violators en masse. According to the Times, the Syracuse study shows that immigration prosecutions are completed at a rate that is several orders of magnitude faster than other typical cases: where a white-collar criminal prosecution would take an average of 460 days, and a typical narcotics case would take 333 days, immigration prosecutions usually take two days.

Rightfully, many are critical of these fast-track prosecutions. Massive plea deals leave individuals no chance to argue the merits of their particular circumstances. This raises due-process concerns, concerns have not been unheeded by the courts: the New York Times article reports that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit recently ruled that mass pleadings are contrary to federal rules designed to protect accused persons from being forced to plead guilty.

The take-home message from these statistics is that we simply cannot prosecute our way out of a broken immigration system; it may seem too expensive to do it right – with all due process protections intact – but it’s unconscionable to do it on the cheap. Let’s hope that Congress and the administration will attend to this issue soon, when the next round of the immigration reform debate begins, later this year.

Disclaimer: The information provided here is of a general nature and may not apply to any specific or particular circumstance. It is not to be construed as legal advice nor presumed indefinitely up to date.