Monday, January 12, 2009

Obama's DOJ may refocus on prosecuting crime instead of immigration

I'll be pleased if the Obama Administration reverses recent trends at the Justice Department prioritizing prosecution of petty immigration crimes over more serious felonies, as predicted by members of his transition team. The New York Times' Solomon Moore lays out the issue in stark detail:

Federal prosecutions of immigration crimes nearly doubled in the last fiscal year, reaching more than 70,000 immigration cases in the 2008 fiscal year, according to federal data compiled by a Syracuse University research group. The emphasis, many federal judges and prosecutors say, has siphoned resources from other crimes, eroded morale among federal lawyers and overloaded the federal court system. Many of those other crimes, including gun trafficking, organized crime and the increasingly violent drug trade, are now routinely referred to state and county officials, who say they often lack the finances or authority to prosecute them effectively. ...

Immigration prosecutions have steeply risen over the last five years, while white-collar prosecutions have fallen by 18 percent, weapons prosecutions have dropped by 19 percent, organized crime prosecutions are down by 20 percent and public corruption prosecutions have dropped by 14 percent, according to the Syracuse group’s statistics. Drug prosecutions — the enforcement priority of the Reagan, first Bush and Clinton administrations — have declined by 20 percent since 2003.

“I have seen a national abdication by the Justice Department,” said Attorney General Terry Goddard of Arizona.

Texas' southern and western federal judicial districts have been the epicenter of expanded immigration prosecution, so it follows that Texas also suffered the most from a lessened focus on more traditional federal prosecutions.

Who among us thinks illegal immigration has done more harm to the economy than "white collar crime"? Hell, just one white collar defendant - Bernard Madoff - allegedly stole almost three times more from Wall Street investors by himself than was taken in 9.8 million property crimes in all of 2007! Given what's happened recently on Wall Street, I doubt the public would approve of DOJ's declining emphasis on white collar theft.

Indeed, it's hard to understand DOJ's priorities during the Bush Administration viewed through any but the most politicized lens. Otherwise, their decisions make little sense. Though Mexican drug cartels constitute by far the biggest border security threat, for example, DOJ's recent immigration focus has kept federal prosecutors from vigorously pursuing those cases. Reports Moore:

“They’ve pulled so many U.S. attorneys off drug crimes and organized crime caseloads that federal agents are trying to get help from local district attorneys because they can’t wait six weeks for a wiretap order,” Ms. Lofgren said. “By then it’s too late to catch the bad guys.”

Federal agents requested 457 wiretaps in 2007, a 14-year low. Meanwhile, state and local prosecutors requested 1,751 wiretaps, more than triple the number in 1993.

These priorities are unsustainable and must be reversed: I'm hopeful President-elect Obama's new Justice Department appointees will quickly plot a new course.


Anonymous said...

How about this for an idea. Find someone here illegally, put them on a bus once a week and send them back home, with all of the information they need to come back in 6 months PROPERLY. The government is so head strong on printing up manuals, pamphlets, and other information workbooks, how's about doing some real good with that thought and give these folks an idea on how to do it correctly. I am not for prosecuting people because they want a better life, but I am also not of the thought that it should be scot-free easy either. Tell them how to do it, who to contact, and the process involved.

As far as looking harder into criminal offenses, I say GREAT, as long as it applies to everyone. Leave noone beyond the reach of the law.

Anonymous said...

Don't get your hopes up, Scott. Those jobs illegals take are often the ones uneducated African Americans seek. When the black ministry and community leaders tell Obama their people are being deprived of work he's unlikely to ignore them, or listen to historical special interests who demand unfettered immigration and endless supply of cheap labor.

And that cynical tactic of accusing people who expect border and immigration enforcment of being racist, or neo-Nazi, or White Supremacist isn't going to work either.

You may want to get used to the idea of mowing your own grass, or paying the going rate.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Perhaps you're right, 11:50, but for now I'll take the word of Obama's transition team over an anonymous blog commenter.

Also, you and I have already been through this on another string: Nobody here has said anything about immigration opponents "being racist, or neo-Nazi, or White Supremacist" ... except YOU.

Anonymous said...

I more or less agree with 9:45. We should make it much easier for people who want to come here to work to do so legally. Perhaps a guest-worker program that would have built into it a way for a person to earn permanent alien status, which could in, turn, lead to application for citizenship. We need to be creative. We can, if we try hard enough come up with a true win-win situation for everyone. Old Salty

Anonymous said...

Especially now, the last thing we need are illegal aliens working in this country. The economy couldn't support it a year ago, and it certainly won't be able to support it now.

As mentioned in an earler message about mowing your own grass, or paying the going rate, we will never know what the true value of that service is, as long as we have illegal labor pouring over the border to come and do it for less, and in many some cases, carry/send their wages back across the border. That's the problem will illegal immigration. It completely upsets the true market value of the American worker, and the services they can provide.

And, by the way, someone might want to point out to Obama's DOJ that illlegal immigration is indeed a crime.

Anonymous said...

If you pay closer attention, dirty, you will notice that nowhere in the blog post did anyone ever state that illegal immigration was not a crime. Rather, the theme and substance of the post was that where federal prosecutorial resources are finite, it is a more appropriate allocation of those resources to fighting more serious crimes--assuming for example one recognizes the difference between illegal immigration on the one hand and murder, drug distribution, gun crimes, and white-collar crime on the other hand.

Anonymous said...

Obama tells Calderón he wants to 'upgrade' NAFTA

10:47 PM CST on Monday, January 12, 2009
By TODD J. GILLMAN / The Dallas Morning News

Obama aides and Mexican officials described the 90-minute meeting as friendly and productive, with security, immigration, the drug war and trade topping the agenda. They also discussed immigration, "and how we can have a comprehensive and thoughtful strategy that ultimately strengthens both countries."

Although his trade stance might have rankled his host, Obama offered other pledges sure to please: heightened efforts to stem the southbound flow of weapons and cash that drug traffickers depend on to ply their trade.

He also vowed to find new ways to jointly crack down on drug violence and "expressed his ongoing support for the valuable work being done under the Mérida Initiative," Gibbs said.

Bush and others spent years in an unsuccessful effort to enact "comprehensive" reform, combining tighter border security and workplace enforcement with a guest-worker program. Obama told Calderón he wants to "fix the broken U.S. immigration system" and end the "flow of illegal immigration," Gibbs said.

Anonymous said...

No law is causing this country more damage than the one that guarantees citizenship to children born in this country regardless of the parents legal status. For a group of people that came here just to work they have large families. This anchor baby loophole guarantees at least one parent staying in our country. This has caused huge strains on hospitals, schools and other social services.

Anonymous said...

Pregnant Mexicans race for the border to have their births in America. A plain rip-off that needs to stop. We invite our own failure by allowing this practice. This is hurting hospitals, etc. and those with insurance have to make up for these illegals and robbers.

Anonymous said...

News shows from all over America, show how much the illegals are hurting our economy; then why Grits, do you defend them as though they help us out?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

To 2:53: I don't watch FOX News.

I'm stating my own views and have, over and over again, provided evidence and data to back them up. E.g., here are the official data on immigration's financial impact on Texas government.

Also, "News shows from all over America" is not a source.

Anonymous said...

"To 2:53: I don't watch FOX News.

I'm stating my own views and have, over and over again, provided evidence and data to back them up. E.g., here are the official data on immigration's financial impact on Texas government."

Even this report by Ms. Strayhorn said "calculating the impact of undocumented immigrants on the Texas economy and state budget is at best an educated guess. This is a result of the difficulty in counting the number of undocumented immigrants in the state and the number who access state paid services. It is difficult to count a population does not want to be counted, particularly when the law allows them allows them access to many government services without regard to citizenship, such as those delivered by public hospitals and public schools."

If anything this is evidence the state doesn't really know the impact on the state budget by illegal aliens.

Or you an MSNBC or CNN guy?

Anonymous said...

Way to go 803.....he apparently uses very limited info for his posts.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

So, 8:03, you say "the state doesn't really know the impact on the state budget by illegal aliens," but you're CERTAIN that you do?

I'm not sure why you're obsessed with TV news, but I'm a hard data guy, I don't just take whatever Lou Dobbs says and believe it uncritically, if that's your CNN reference. Show me your sources - don't just tell me to watch "news shows from all over America." That's not a serious or credible position.

Anonymous said...

So, 8:03, you say "the state doesn't really know the impact on the state budget by illegal aliens," but you're CERTAIN that you do?

I didn't make the 2:53 post so the rest of what you said is an assumption on your part about me being obssessed with tv news.

However, I do know how to interpret what I read and then draw my own conclusions and from that particular statement that was in the report, I'm of the opinion the state of Texas really does not know what the financial impact is on the state budget.

You seem to get testy when countered with things like the statement that what was in the report that you claimed as evidence and data to support your claims.

Maybe you just read the headline and not the report. You would make a great politician. Have you ever thought about running for office?

Anonymous said...

And one other thing, the report when on to say that local governments bore the burden of $1.44 billion in UNCOMPENSATED HEALTH CARE COSTS AND LOCAL LAW ENFORCEMENT COSTS NOT PAID FOR BY THE STATE.

No pun intended, but care to put a "spin" on that too!

Gritsforbreakfast said...

If I get testy its because this topic routinely gets comments that are a) anonymous, b) completely without sourcing, c) filled with all-caps e-yelling, while d) questioning my integrity and anyone who disagrees with them. I have VERY little respect at this point for anti-immigrant rhetoric coming from cowards without the cojones to argue these points under their own name.

What's more, such commenters NEVER want to talk about the subject at hand - instead the strategy is to divert attention from uncomfortable facts. E.g., neither you nor others on this string wants to justify prioritizing prosecution of economic immigrants over white collar crime, public corruption, etc.. Those offenses are flourishing and don't receive sufficient investigation because of DOJ's hyper-focus on immigration. But that's okay with you, right?

Do you notice your comments here ignored my original post entirely? That's extremely typical.

On the economic question, I came to the conclusion years ago as an economics major at UT that immigration is a net gain, just as it has been since this country was founded. Nothing I've seen since (including a major economic boom during the period immigration was highest) makes me think that analysis is wrong.

Immigrants pay more in taxes than they use in services, though there are dislocations in that they disproportionately pay more to the feds (e.g., millions pay FICA, though they'll never receive social security), but tend to not pay property taxes (except through rent). Make immigration legal and documented and those dislocations will quickly work themselves out. They're a function of driving people underground, not inherent to immigration economics.

I'm tired of repeating myself so if you want more than that, go read my past writings.

Anonymous said...

Most illegals do not pay taxes. They get free care at the emergency rooms. Many refuse to learn English. Many want to fly the Mexican flag here! Are you rather biased about this Mr Grits. I agree with most of your posts, but here, you are off base.

Anonymous said...

I'm just fascinated that I've read a Grits post that appears to bemoan a decline in Bush-administration wiretapping. Who'd have thought such a thing?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

"Who'd have thought such a thing?"

You mean, other than anybody who'd read my writing on border security, public corruption and disrupting transnational drug cartels? :)

Anonymous said...

Have you noticed that Grit's main concern is to increase the illegal population in your community. He will blog in 8-10 times on any immigration topics. He has a new article daily to argue that any respect for the US border is a terrible thing.

He is not happy that some students still speak English as their primary language. He will seek any way to attack any tradition of this country. He will attack teachers because many students in the country illegally don't do well in school. Yes, let's blame the teachers. Yes, we need a 50% drop out rate. Yes, we need a higher % of HS seniors who read at the 6th grade. To Grits, that is progress.