Although most U.S. citizens are aware that illegal immigrants often are the culprits of crime, a new analysis from the Pew Research Center of Department of Justice (DOJ) statistics shows that 61 percent of all federal arrests are now of non-U.S. citizens. This is up from a figure of 28 percent roughly 10 years ago.
Today, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which includes the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), makes far more arrests than the DEA, the FBI, the U.S. Marshal’s Service, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE) and all other federal agencies within the DOJ combined.
Furthermore, in 2014, the same figure of 61 percent of all federal arrests — at least 100,000 total — took place in just five federal court districts along the U.S.-Mexican border.
It should be noted that these arrests were mostly for immigration-related offenses (although they included thousands for other crimes), but didn’t include hundreds of thousands of otherwise non-criminal apprehensions of illegal aliens occurring every year. In 2014, for all federal courts, 37 percent of criminal defendants were illegals.
Because illegals must all have administrative hearings in immigration courts, this system has come under severe strain, with a backlog of cases providing a kind of “virtual amnesty” for these defendants in the time prior to when their cases can be heard.
By some estimates, there are more than half a million such cases weighing down federal court dockets around the country as President Trump increases the enforcement of immigration laws. In all cases, defendants can appeal their decisions to the Board of Immigration Appeals, and those decisions can be appealed further to federal appeals courts.
But even prior to Trump’s becoming president, the country’s immigration courts were overloaded with record numbers of pending cases, frequent bureaucratic breakdowns and a shortage of judges. These problems date back over a decade, according to Dana Marks, a San Francisco judge who’s head of the National Association of Immigration Judges.
“It would be a shame if the mistakes of the past continue to be repeated,” said Marks, referring to previous attempts to increase immigration enforcement without supplying adequate resources for the court system.
Omar Jadwat, the director of the Immigrants’ Rights Project at the American Civil Liberties Union, claimed that “instead of actually trying to make the courts better, the [Trump administration] just wants to use them less, even though that obviously is deeply problematic from a due-process standpoint.”
DOJ statistics showed that immigration offenses such as the trafficking of illegals into the U.S. are beginning to show up in regular U.S. district courts. In 1994, less than 2,500 immigration cases showed up in district courts, while in 2014, 21,789 cases did, making up over 25 percent of those courts’ criminal caseloads.
Of these cases, nearly 80 percent resulted in sentences of at least 15 months in a federal prison. Cases where an illegal is not in federal custody typically take between two and five years to resolve.
If it weren’t for the spike of illegals doing time in federal prisons, these facilities would be seeing their overcrowding reduced, due to drops in other types of federal offenders. But as it is, illegals are forcing overflow populations into private prisons, which have been accused of having greater security and safety problems than public ones.
At any one time, ICE can be holding up to 34,000 illegals awaiting deportation. At least 46 of the approximately 180 facilities ICE uses to hold illegals are privately run; about 73 percent of ICE’s detainees are currently held in private prisons.
Detention centers for illegals are especially profitable for companies running private prisons because they receive higher payments per bed from the federal government. According to Michael Kodesch, senior associate with Canaccord Genuity, a financial services firm that analyzes private facilities, “Trump was saying during his 100-day plan that mandatory minimums for people re-entering the country would be set at two years — that’s going to require a longer-term need for beds.”
Some progressive organizations disagree with the practice of using private companies for this task. “The [DOJ is] handing the keys to a deportation machine over to the Trump administration. And I think there’s no reason to believe that the Trump administration won’t drive that machine forward through human rights protections or due process protections people have in the detention system,” said Bob Libal, the executive director of nonprofit Grassroots Leadership, which seeks to lower incarceration rates.
Many analysts say there’s a common belief that increased detention will lead to more deportations as some immigrants with valid claims for staying in the country may give in to deportation just to avoid detention.
The Obama administration had announced it wanted to phase out the use of private prisons for pre-trial detainees, but Attorney General Jeff Sessions has stated that he will be reversing that policy. Ira Mehlman, a spokesman at the Federation for American Immigration Reform, says that the system as it currently stands is broken, but agrees that lawyers and advocacy groups that file new court appeals and motions on behalf of illegal defendants are part of the reason why.
“They understand that time works to their benefit, and that the longer you can drag this out, the more bites at the apple you can get — the greater the likelihood that you can find some plausible reason for remaining here in the United States.”
For now, private prisons may not be the best solution for illegal immigrant detention, but they may be the best one we’ve got while we fix our problems with a severely backlogged federal court system. Eventually, a drop in the number of illegals coming across the border (especially once the southern border wall is built) should reduce the court backlog and eventually, the number of prison beds required for these cases.
~ Conservative Zone