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December 22, 2009

Federal prosecutions reach record high in FY 2009

As detailed in this New York Times article, which is based on this report from the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC), federal prosecutions "reached a record high in the 2009 fiscal year, with the surge driven by a sharp increase in cases filed against immigration violators."  Here are more details from the article in the Times:

The 169,612 federal prosecutions were a jump of nearly 9 percent from the previous year, according to Department of Justice data analyzed by a research center at Syracuse University in a new report. Immigration prosecutions were up nearly 16 percent, and made up more than half of all criminal cases brought by the federal government, the report said.

Much of the spike, immigration experts say, arises from Bush administration efforts to increase immigration enforcement and to speed prosecutions. The administration greatly increased the number of Border Patrol agents and prosecutors, and also introduced a program known as Operation Streamline that relied on large-scale processing of plea deals in immigrant cases in some parts of the country.

The relatively simple cases have become the low-hanging fruit of the federal legal system: Immigration prosecutions, from inception to court disposal, are lightning quick, according to the report. While white-collar prosecutions take an average of 460 days and narcotics cases take 333, the immigration cases are typically disposed of in 2 days.

And while federal prosecutors decline to prosecute about half of the white-collar cases that are referred to them by law enforcement agencies, they prosecute 97 percent of the immigration cases, according to the Syracuse group.

December 22, 2009 at 11:59 AM | Permalink


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Sounds to me like the feds are doing what the public demands--enforcing the law and defending our borders.

Leave it to the Times to portray this as unseemly.

Posted by: mjs | Dec 22, 2009 2:28:11 PM

mjs, I agree that immigration is one of the (should be) few areas where federal prosecution is most legitimate. However, nothing at all in the article portrayed this practice as "unseemly."

On another note, does anyone know if "Operation Streamline" is just another name for the Fast Track programs.

Posted by: DEJ | Dec 22, 2009 5:22:39 PM

I wonder if the recent switch to review of immigration decisions by the Courts of appeals has anything to do with this? Are they getting the cases out faster than the district courts could do?

Posted by: Gray Procor | Dec 22, 2009 8:45:46 PM

There are all sorts of problems that can arise in most prosecutions - evidentiary issues, hinky witnesses, legal wrinkles, the potential for bad appellate law being propagated, etc. In an immigration case, all you need to show is that the guy was in country and the guy wasn't authorized to be in country. The myriad reasons for declination rarely arise in such simple cases. So the comparison of relative declination rates is not all that informative or useful.

Posted by: Prosecutorial Indiscretion | Dec 28, 2009 1:31:08 PM

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