A zero-tolerance approach to illegal border crossings has produced a record number of immigration prosecutions in border states, swamping federal courthouses with misdemeanor cases and landing many immigrants in local jails, says the Dallas Morning News. Analysts attribute the surge in prosecutions to Operation Streamline, a Bush administration program that now includes virtually every mile of the border.
New immigration cases, many of them stemming from misdemeanor arrests, represented 58 percent of all new federal prosecutions in April, dwarfing the number of drug and white-collar crime cases. Critics say the strategy has criminalized immigration – traditionally handled by administrative courts – without focusing on employers who hire illegal migrants. Some lawyers call the policy “crimmigration,” adding that it has packed the courtrooms and burdened public defenders with more cases. Nationally, the number of border apprehensions in 2008 – about 577,100 – is down about 17 percent compared with the same period in 2007. In Texas’ Western District, immigration-related prosecutions numbered 10,100 from October through April, said the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University. If that trend continues, the total for fiscal 2008 would be almost nine times that of fiscal 2007.