Immigrant Rights News - Mon, March 17, 2008
Immigrant Rights News – Mon, March 17, 2008
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The effort includes combing
By Anna Gorman and Scott Glover
March 16, 2008
Federal authorities are cracking down on immigrants who were previously deported and then reentered the country illegally -- a crime that now makes up more than one-third of all prosecutions in
The surge in prosecutions reflects the federal government's push in recent years to detect illegal immigrants with criminal records in what may seem the most obvious of places: the state's jails and prisons.
Immigration authorities have long combed inmate populations for illegal immigrants, but additional money and cooperation with local law enforcement have fueled an increase in such cases by the
Prosecutors filed 539 such cases in fiscal year 2007, making up 35% of the caseload, compared with 207 in 2006 -- 17% of all cases. Statistics for the first four months of this fiscal year show the trend continuing.
Federal authorities touted the recent effort, saying the prosecutions serve as a deterrent for those who see the border as a turnstile. They said they were targeting violent gang members, career criminals and drug dealers who have returned to the country after being deported -- many of them repeatedly.
"They are some of the worst of the worst," said Julie L. Myers, assistant secretary of Immigration and Customs Enforcement in
"I just wish that were true," said Jerry Salseda, a deputy federal public defender who has represented scores of illegal immigrants charged with reentering the country after having been deported. He and other critics say people who committed minor crimes years ago have been caught up in the wave of prosecutions.
Bruce J. Einhorn, a former immigration court judge, said the
"That would do more to stop dangerous illegal immigration than by prosecuting a few more undocumented people who have reentered illegally," he said.
Einhorn also questioned the efficacy of the prosecutions, because people's motivations to return -- reuniting with small children and escaping poverty -- often outweigh time behind bars.
In years past, many of those now being prosecuted for illegal reentry would have simply been deported. Now they are being sent to prison first. Sentences can be as long as 20 years, but most defendants receive three to five years, prosecutors said.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials in
Prosecutions are likely to continue increasing nationwide as ICE expands its work in jails. Congress recently appropriated $200 million for the agency, which Myers said would be used to develop technology and to work with local and state officials to identify more illegal immigrants behind bars.
The effort in Los Angeles was recently cited by U.S. Atty. Gen. Michael Mukasey, who said Justice Department officials were reviewing it "with an eye toward expanding it to the Southwest border districts" and elsewhere.
Thom Mrozek, spokesman for the
To win a conviction, prosecutors need to prove three things: that the defendant is in the
A side benefit of such easy-to-prove cases is that they can be made when there isn't enough evidence to convict illegal immigrants on other charges, said Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, a group that advocates tighter enforcement of immigration laws.
It's the same idea as when "you send Al Capone to jail for not paying his taxes," he said.
Curtis Kin, chief of the Domestic Security and Immigration Crimes Section of the
"The people we go after are demonstrated threats," he said. "The No. 1 reason to do this is to protect the community."
As evidence, he pointed to the cases of two gang members charged after a jail sweep in December dubbed "Operation Winter Warning."
One of them -- Julio Cesar Mata-Sosa, a member of the
The other, Ascension Hernandez-Perez, a
Defense attorney Yolanda Barrera, who handles several of these cases each year, says not every illegal reentry case features a hard-core criminal with multiple deportations.
"They could be a priest, they could be a nun; it doesn't matter," she said. "If they are here illegally, they have previously been deported and they have an aggravated felony, they are going to be prosecuted."
She recently defended a woman named Leticia Esparza, a former gang member who was sentenced to five years in prison on a 1997 drug sales conviction before being deported. Esparza was deported in 2000 and returned to the
After returning, Esparza, now 37, left the gang, got her tattoos removed and started working selling cosmetics and had four more children.
Esparza was rearrested last June after police said she tried to cash a stolen check. Barrera said she was able to prove that the check was not stolen, but Esparza was still prosecuted for illegal reentry after deportation and sentenced to one year in federal prison. The prosecutors had pushed for a 37-month sentence, Barrera said.
"I can understand the law is the law," Barrera said, "but to send her to prison for what they wanted -- I think that's outrageous."
Even within the
William Carter, who was chief of the environmental section when he resigned in 2006, said he recalled some illegal re-entry cases that were triggered by relatively minor crimes such as DUIs, traffic offenses and even jaywalking.
"With some of these cases, why are we bothering?" he said. "You need to do something about the border. You don't do it by throwing people in jail."
US News and World Report
Where Clinton, Obama, and McCain Stand on Immigration
Posted March 17, 2008
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"Let’s deploy more technology and personnel, instead of the physical barrier."
"The key is to consult with local communities [when] creating any kind of barrier."
Obama voted for the fence but has since joined Clinton in de-emphasizing his support, which is unpopular in border towns and among Hispanic voters.
"Borders are borders, and there should be agreements between the landowners and the federal government."
McCain voted for the fence and has encouraged agreements to allow the government to enter private property to survey land.
"It is easier sometimes to employ people who are immigrants and… really take advantage of them."
Despite voting for the failed McCain-Kennedy bill,
"Illegal immigration is bad for illegal immigrants and bad for the workers against whom they compete."
Obama supports a guest-worker program with a database of workers, arguing it will improve wages and conditions for all workers.
"We need workers in this country. There are certain jobs that Americans are simply not willing to do."
McCain cosponsored the failed Senate bill that proposed a guest-worker program with a registry and a path to legalization for illegal immigrants.
"[Deporting all illegal immigrants] is absolutely unrealistic, and it is not in keeping with American values."
"Give the 12 million people who are here illegally… many of whom have
Obama supports giving illegal immigrants a path to legal residency, similar to
"Make them earn citizenship because they have broken our laws."
As a principal author of the failed immigration bill, which would have given illegal immigrants a path to citizenship, McCain hasstruggled to convince conservatives that his plan is not amnesty.
Enforcement and Security
"It is unconscionable to think that in a post-9/11 world, we do not precisely know who is entering and exiting our country."
Clinton voted for comprehensive immigration reform, which would work to enhance national security by tightening the borders and implementing an employer verification system.
"I will make sure that the federal government does what it’s supposed to do...a better job of closing our borders and preventing hundreds of thousands of people to pour in."
Obama voted for comprehensive immigration reform and has stressed that legalizing workers will boost
"I will secure the borders first, and I will have the
McCain, a key player in the immigration reform fight, has moved from pushing the cause of legalization to emphasizing the need for border security first.
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