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May 15, 2014

The government is prosecuting the immigrants Obama promised to help
By Dara Lind

There are several points before an immigrant gets convicted of illegal reentry when federal officials can decide not to pursue the case. Two-thirds of immigrants who get prosecuted for reentry were caught crossing the border. But Border Patrol agents aren't required to send all of them to federal court and federal prosecutors aren't required to convict them. While prosecutions have gone way up along the whole border since 2006, they've increased in some sectors much more than others: Part of this is how many immigrants get sent to prosecutors to begin with. Border Patrol agents in New Mexico and West Texas are much more likely to refer immigrants to federal prosecutors than agents in Arizona, Southern California or South Texas. There are various reasons for these disparities, including legal precedents and the demographics of border crossers in each sector, but part of it is driven by the decisions of Border Patrol agents themselves (and prosecutors, who have some say in how many people get sent to their courtrooms). Even after immigrants are referred to prosecutors, prosecutors have the option not to charge them with anything. But along the border, prosecutors almost always charge them anyway. A spokesperson for the Western District of Texas identified "Border Crime" as one of that district's five priorities for prosecution. That district prosecuted 99.7 percent of the immigrants referred to them by Customs and Border Protection over the last ten months for which data is available through the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University; only Arizona prosecutes less than 95 percent.

Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, Syracuse University
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