In San Diego, Feds Give Migrant Cases Priority Over Drugs

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Federal prosecutors warn that they are diverting resources from drug-smuggling cases in southern California to handle the flood of immigration charges brought on by the Trump administration’s border crackdown, USA Today reports. After Attorney General Jeff Sessions instructed prosecutors to bring charges against anyone who enters the U.S. illegally, Justice Department supervisor Fred Sheppard in San Diego sent an email to border authorities warning that immigration cases “will occupy substantially more of our resources.” He wrote that the U.S. Attorney’s office was “diverting staff, both support and attorneys, accordingly.” The email said prosecutors needed to streamline their work on smuggling cases. He said that would mean tight deadlines – sometimes just a few hours to produce reports and recordings – for those that would land in federal court.

Sessions ordered prosecutors along the southwest border to bring criminal charges against every adult caught entering the U.S. illegally, a “zero tolerance” push meant to deter migrants. Those cases typically are seldom more than symbolic — most of the people who are charged are sentenced to no additional jail time and a $10 fee — but they have served as the legal basis for separating thousands of children from their parents at the border. The border crackdown has produced a high-speed assembly line of minor cases in federal courts from California to Texas, more than doubling the caseloads there.  There are signs that border authorities are seeking to prosecute drug smugglers in state courts instead, even though sentences typically are harsher in the federal system. The San Diego District Attorney’s office said that the number of drug cases submitted to them by border authorities had more than doubled since the administration started its border crackdown. Homeland Security agents referred 96 drug cases to the office between May 21 and June 21, compared to 47 over the same period last year.

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