Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Massive rate of federal immigration prosecutions in Texas' Southern and Western districts not sustainable given prison guard shortages

For a great primer on recent federal sentencing dynamics in Texas' Southern and Western districts driving national immigration detention policy, see this collection of recent data compiled by the wonderful (at least for data geeks) Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse out of Syracuse U. They reported:
Federal immigration prosecutions in March 2008 continued their recent and highly unusual surge, apparently reaching an all-time high, according to timely data from the Justice Department. The total of 9,350 such prosecutions was up by almost 50% from the previous month and 73% from the previous year.
See Figures 2 and 3 for graphs displaying the massive shift in prosecutorial resources now being devoted to civil and criminal immigration offenses. In the Western district that's largely thanks to "Operation Streamline," a so-called zero-tolerance program that began in 2006. In the Southern district prosecutors began more aggressively pursuing immigration charges in 2004.

These data explain why two years ago on Grits I was predicting a "coming immigration detention boom." Texas state prison growth has leveled off in large part thanks to bipartisan legislative leadership that created and funded new diversion programs and stronger probation regimens. County jails are still experiencing growth, but with a few exceptions they're not major clients of private prison systems.

Instead, the major growth in private prison beds in Texas will nearly all come from immigration detention in the near future, or as some would have it, "holding pens for wetbacks" (!).

Never mind that all sorts of prisons, detention centers, jails, whatever you want to call them are already facing a shortage of guards that make them unsafe for employees and insecure environments for detainees.

The supply of border crossers to catch and prosecute is nearly limitless, and I've little doubt the feds can sustain these high rates on the front-end, funneling ever-more people into the system. But I don't for a second think Texas (or other border states) have remotely enough detention beds to house all these folks at the rates documented by TRAC.

One suspects that, no matter who's elected President, the next set of US Attorneys appointed won't be encouraged to pursue such cases with the same zeal as Bush appointees in the last couple of years.

Via Bender's Immigration Bulletin

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