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Criminal immigration prosecutions continue to rise

The Southern and Middle Federal Judicial Districts of Florida were among the top 10 districts in the nation in the number of criminal immigration prosecutions in the first six months of fiscal year 2011. #

New data from the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University shows that criminal prosecution for illegal reentry was the most commonly recorded lead charge brought by federal prosecutors — accounting for nearly half of all criminal immigration prosecutions filed. #

The data shows that the Florida districts have contributed more than 420 criminal immigration prosecutions, while clearly showing that the vast majority of these cases occur in the Southwest border states. #

The Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse report notes that individuals who are not criminally prosecuted may be deported administratively. It adds that the vast majority of immigration apprehensions are dealt with via administrative actions such as “removals” and “voluntary departures.” #

The data shows a steady rise of criminal prosecutions for illegal reentry, a felony offense, from 2009 through 2011. According to the authors, this charge has surpassed illegal entry as the most common federal immigration prosecution charge. #

Commenting on this data, the Immigration Policy Center states that comparing the prosecution for illegal reentry data with prosecution for weapons-related offenses shows that the “federal government is prioritizing immigration enforcement over potentially far more dangerous activities, such as gun smuggling.” #

According to the Policy Center, the data shows that while more than 18,500 cases of illegal reentry were prosecuted, “the number of weapons prosecutions continues to decline. In the month of January 2011 there were only 484 new weapons prosecutions—the lowest level since January 2001. Weapons prosecutions are down 7.9% from this time last year, and 28.8% from 2006.” #

The Policy Center also highlights how federal immigration enforcement program Operation Streamline, a Bush administration program still in place under Obama, has played a role in the increased prosecution of illegal entry. #

According to a study (.pdf) by The Chief Justice Earl Warren Institute on Race, Ethnicity & Diversity, Operation Streamline diverts crucial law enforcement resources away from fighting violent crime along the border, fails to effectively reduce undocumented immigration and violates the U.S. Constitution. #

The Department of Homeland Security began implementing Operation Streamline along the U.S.-Mexico border in 2005. Operation Streamline removed that prosecutorial discretion, requiring the criminal prosecution of all undocumented border crossers, regardless of their history. #

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