Thursday, March 13, 2008

Immigration enforcement interfering with other US Marshals' duties

Stricter enforcement of immigration laws is harming the effectiveness of federal fugitive apprehension and other critical public safety initiatives, a US Marshal's supervisor declared, particularly where the feds have implemented a pilot 'zero-tolerance' policy along the stretch of border near Del Rio. Reports the Dallas News ("Illegal immigrant program stretches marshals to the limit," March 13):

A program along the border in parts of Texas and Arizona to haul illegal immigrants off to jail instead of shipping them home has overwhelmed the U.S. Marshals Service.

The 600 marshals stationed on the border with Mexico are dealing with as many as 6,000 new defendants a month. That's taking them away from other tasks such as capturing escaped prisoners and rounding up sex offenders, according to Justice Department documents.

David Gonzales, the head marshal in Arizona, said "Operation Streamline" shows how a well-intentioned program to crack down on illegal immigrants can be undermined by inadequate funding and the strain it places on all layers of the criminal justice system.

"You can only stretch people so far," he said.

A Border Patrol chief says it would be impossible to scale up the program to cover the entire border. "We would probably freeze the entire court system in one day" if every illegal immigrant was prosecuted, he told the News. "It's selective prosecution."

Texas Congressman John Culberson is perhaps the most prominent politician pushing to expand the program, according to the paper. If he "and his allies have their way, the border court and detention system, already overburdened by drug, sex and violent crime cases, will buckle without more resources, defense attorneys say."

When you hear folks advocating mass expulsions or "securing the border," whatever that means, what you rarely hear along with it is a discussion of opportunity costs. Personally, I'd rather the US Marshals stay focused on fugitive apprehension, and I don't want the federal courts to divert their attention from sex crimes and serious violent offenses. But that's what's happening thanks to the sheer volume of immigration cases flooding Texas' southern and western federal district courts.

No comments: