Prosecution of undocumented immigrants increasing
While there is widespread debate on whether deportations of undocumented Mexican workers are on the increase, prosecution is dramatically increasing.
The most recent Justice Department figures show immigration charges jumped more than 45 percent in the state in 2013, with 6,000 more cases filed in federal court than the previous year.
Advocates of immigration reform fear the leap is the start of a trend. It is one of the reasons behind recent protest rallies staged in Clovis, Portales and other cities across New Mexico.
At the Clovis protest April 5, advocates from the group Somos Un Pueblo Unido claimed deportations were on the rise for minor infractions and are splitting up families.
In eastern New Mexico, there is anecdotal evidence supporting charges that families are being hurt by stepped up prosecutions.
Somos Un Pueblo Unido spokesperson Marcela Diaz said families in Clovis — largely agricultural workers — are and have been hurt because of deportations.
“One of the cases in Clovis,” Diaz said, “actually ended in two children, both U.S. citizens, having to move back to Mexico to be with their loved ones (parents), who had been deported.”
Recent claims of increases in deportations, however, are questionable.
Curry County jail Administrator Tori Sandoval said there are now nine inmates suspected of being illegal aliens housed in the jail. The number is a slight increase over the average, Sandoval said, but not significant based on her years of experience as jail chief and as a working officer.
Nationally, critics point to a record 2 million deportations under the Obama administration, calling the president the “deporter in chief.” But there are caveats in that high number of deportations that reflect directly on Curry and Roosevelt counties.
Numerous studies have concluded most of the undocumented individuals being deported were arrested at or within 100 miles of the border.
The findings, based on the latest Justice Department figures, were reported recently by the Los Angeles Times.
The newspaper concluded deportations have actually dropped by 40 percent since Obama took office when border arrests are taken into consideration. The explanation, they said, is a change in who gets counted in statistics kept by Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE).
More than two-thirds of those deported in the last five years were arrested within 100 miles of the border, according to ICE figures. In previous years, these illegals were returned to Mexico without prosecution and not counted by ICE.
The decision by ICE to prosecute about 90 percent of those arrested rather than simply return illegal aliens to Mexico is significant and holds serious implications for undocumented workers. Anyone successfully prosecuted is banned from returning for five years and faces federal prison terms if they are caught on U.S. soil during that period.
A recent New York Times investigation also concluded while demographics of those being deported haven’t changed much — most are Mexican men under age 35 — the circumstances have.
The newspaper reported records show the largest increases in deportations involved illegal immigrants with traffic offenses — from 43,000 under the Bush administration to 193,000 in the five years under Obama.
The prosecution numbers have also changed dramatically, according to Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse Immigration, a database maintained and updated monthly by Syracuse University.
Nationally, according to TRAC Immigration figures, there were 90,806 new deportation cases filed in the first 11 months of fiscal year 2013. It is an increase of 32 percent from 27,428 prosecutions five years ago.
Overall, the data show that prosecutions are up 468 percent from the 6,398 reported a decade ago.
“We think it all points to a broken system,” said Diaz.