As courts take on more immigration cases, other crimes go unpunished

A report finds that U.S. courts are handling so many immigration-related prosecutions since "zero tolerance" started that they've had to cut back on prosecuting most other kinds of crimes.
By Rick Docksai | Aug 08, 2018
Courts are so busy handling immigration cases that they are cutting back on prosecuting U.S. citizens' crimes, concludes a new report by the Syracuse University research center Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC). The report found that as immigration-related criminal convictions have surged throughout U.S. border states in the last few months, convictions of every other category of crime have dropped by more than a third.

The report assesses government data of criminal prosecutions filed along the border and noted a 79% increase in immigration-related prosecutions between March and June. In that same time period, it tracked a 35% decrease in non-immigration prosecutions. And whereas non-immigration offenses accounted for 14% of all prosecutions in districts along the border in June, they were only 6% of the total sum of prosecutions in June.

The report's authors wrote that unless non-immigration crime became "suddenly less prevalent in the last five months, the diverging directions of immigration-related prosecutions and other prosecutions imply that immigration is taking up law enforcement's time to the point where it is cutting back on other prosecutions. This was the case even for drug prosecutions--the report found that Arizona's processing of drug-related cases declined sharply in recent months.

The numbers of immigration cases arriving in federal courts nationwide have increased by more than a third since President Trump took office, according to TRAC. It attributes the surging caseloads to the April roll-out of Attorney General Jeff Sessions' "zero tolerance" immigration policy, which called for criminally prosecuting all persons caught attempting unlawful border-crossings to criminal courts. Before this, border agents allowed detained border-crossers to voluntarily return to Mexico without charges.

Zero tolerance further increased the court's caseloads by ordering the prosecutions of parents caught crossing with children. This mandated the placement of thousands of children into federal custody.

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