Illegal immigrants are not causing a major proportion of New Mexico’s crime problems, says the Albuquerque Journal. What illegal crossers are doing, is pushing the federal court system in the state near a breaking point. The sheer volume of immigration cases is crushing. Thousands of federal prisoners are being housed in county lockups while they await the outcome of their cases. The number of felony cases filed in New Mexico’s three federal courthouses has increased by nearly 300 percent over the past decade— and most of that involves immigration offenses.
More than 1,800 felony immigration cases were filed in New Mexico alone in the year that ended Sept. 30. That was a new record, topping fiscal 2004’s immigration case numbers by more than 20 percent. “It’s really at a crisis point,” said Chief U.S. District Judge Martha Vázquez, who heads the federal court system in New Mexico. “Nobody should be operating a federal court under these conditions.” At times, “we get the names of the people mixed up.” Said a former federal prosecutor: “We don’t practice law. We practice time management. For every 10 that we get rid of, 20 come in.”