Patterico's Pontifications

3/16/2008

L.A. Times Tries to Convince Readers that Feds Are Cracking Down on Illegal Immigration

Filed under: Dog Trainer,General,Immigration — Patterico @ 7:22 pm

The Los Angeles Times has a front-page story that suggests the federal government is really cracking down on people who illegally re-enter the country. However, the paper doesn’t tell you that the big “crackdown” is actually a joke. Here is the story’s lede:

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 Los Angeles and surrounding counties, a Times review of U.S. attorney’s statistics shows.

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.

It sounds encouraging, until you look at the actual numbers of this “surge” in prosecutions:

Prosecutors filed 539 such cases in fiscal year 2007, making up 35% of the total caseload, compared to 207 in 2006 — 17% of all cases. Statistics for the first four months of this fiscal year show the trend continuing.

539 cases, up from 207 in 2006. That’s like saying: we’re getting an extra foot of water in this ship every minute — but we’re now bailing out the water with two eyedroppers instead of one! Great news! Now the ship will sink in five hours instead of 4 hours and 58 minutes. I’m relieved! How about you?

By any measure, tens of thousands of illegal aliens head for the Central District of California every year, many of whom have been removed from the country before. The first comment to this post has some relevant statistics.

When illegal immigrants re-enter the country, how likely are they to be prosecuted? Everyone knows that U.S. Attorney’s Offices across the Southwest have extremely restrictive filing guidelines on filing illegal re-entry cases. Recall that, during the U.S. Attorney scandal, it emerged that (with rare exceptions) Paul Charlton in Phoenix refused to prosecute illegal re-entry cases until the illegal alien had illegally re-entered the country for the 13th time. That’s not a typo. In most cases, if an illegal alien was deported and re-entered the country for the twelfth time, Charlton wouldn’t prosecute him.

Moreover, ICE agents lack incentive to submit illegal re-entrants for prosecution. Let’s revisit a post I did in June of last year, as part of my Deport the Criminals First series. In that post, I told you:

A source who wishes to remain anonymous, but whose word I trust, tells me an eye-opening story. My source once had a conversation with an ICE deportation officer in the Southern California area, who said that he personally arrests (on average) two people a week who could be prosecuted for illegal re-entry — but that he almost never submits the cases for prosecution. Instead, he just deports them. The deportation officer explained to my source that, as far as ICE is concerned, there is no requirement that every potential case of illegal re-entry be submitted for prosecution. Whether to submit such cases is considered an internal matter within ICE.

What’s more, the deportation officer said, there is no incentive to prosecute illegal re-entry cases. Some other ICE agents are specifically tasked with putting together illegal re-entry cases, and they do their job. But as a deportation officer, this agent said, he doesn’t get any additional recognition or credit for submitting illegal re-entry cases for prosecution — and it’s a lot more paperwork than simply deporting an illegal alien. So, although he arrested something like a hundred people a year for this offense — and keep in mind that we’re talking about only one deportation officer here — he submitted almost none for prosecution.

So if the prosecutions have more than doubled, what does that mean? It means that now, instead of submitting between zero and one cases per 100 for prosecution, that officer is probably now submitting two out of every 100. Don’t you feel better?

Sorry, but I’m not impressed that the Central District is prosecuting 539 people a year for illegal re-entry. I don’t blame the people who run that office; there’s only so much they can do with the resources they’ve been given. Hey, it’s a good thing, I suppose, that they’re using two eyedroppers instead of one. But it’s still fundamentally inadequate by several orders of magnitude, and the responsibility for that goes much higher than the U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California.

This is the context that the L.A. Times should be giving to its readers. Instead, they’re pushing a front-page story that suggests that the government is really cracking down. The message is: We’re doing enforcement first! And we all know what comes next:

Amnesty for everyone!

19 Responses to “L.A. Times Tries to Convince Readers that Feds Are Cracking Down on Illegal Immigration”

  1. It’s very hard to get reliable statistics about illegal immigration, but a few numbers will give you a rough idea of the size of the problem. About 700,000 – 800,000 people enter the country illegally every year, according to this 2005 report from the Pew Hispanic Center. The same report indicates that over 80% of these come from Mexico (57%) or other Latin American countries (24%). Fully 24% of the illegal immigrants in the country live in California — meaning that between 168,000 and 192,000 new illegal immigrants enter California every year. Let’s pick a round number near the lower end as our working figure: around 175,000.

    Now, the Central District of California, which is the subject of the article, encompasses Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, and Ventura counties. It has a total population of more than 18 million — almost half of the state’s population of about 37 million. By any reasonable estimate, of the approximately 175,000 new illegal immigrants entering California every year, tens of thousands end up residing in Los Angeles and the surrounding counties of the Central District.

    How many of these are illegal re-entrants? I can’t find reliable statistics on that. I know that ICE says it removes about 185,000 illegals per year. What percentage of the 700,000 – 800,000 illegal entrants per year are among those who have previously been deported? I don’t know, but the evidence I provide in the post, regarding Charlton’s filing guidelines and the anecdotal evidence of the lazy attitude of at least one deportation officer in Southern California, suggests that the problem is much, much bigger than would be reflected by 539 prosecutions per year. My educated guess is that probably 50 times that number are deported without ever facing prosecution, for various reasons.

    Patterico (4bda0b)

  2. Here are some more recent numbers to add to the mix:

    “The Department of Homeland Security, continuing to enforce what it calls a “strict policy of arresting, prosecuting and jailing” illegal immigrants, deported a record number of those caught on the nation’s borders last year — more than 280,000 in fiscal year 2007 compared to 186,000 a year earlier.

    It was the largest number of illegals ever removed from the country in a single year.

    Specifically:

    “On average, about half of those caught at the Southwest border are Mexican nationals. Currently, they face formal deportation procedures only in those limited areas covered by Operation Streamline or if they have been identified as convicted criminals.

    Ms. Fobbs said that during fiscal 2007, a total of 136,712 Mexican nationals were returned home — 67,793 of whom were identified as criminal aliens.

    I don’t know how many had previously been deported, but half of the deported Mexican nationals were criminal aliens. And from the sound of it, most of these numbers come from Arizona and Texas.

    DRJ (a431ca)

  3. That’s helpful information. Too bad we’re not keeping them all out.

    Patterico (4bda0b)

  4. Local law enforcement agencies in Texas and Arizona have been signing on to federal programs that provide more screening for illegal immigrants in the jails. I’ve tried to follow those efforts with some posts on Phoenix, the Dallas area and Austin, Texas. At this point, it’s clear immigration control will have to be a grassroots effort driven by local agencies. These more recent deportation numbers suggest it may be working – however slowly – in Arizona and Texas.

    California law enforcement agencies need to get on board but they won’t, will they?

    DRJ (a431ca)

  5. The Times has never written a story about the cost to emergency rooms, courts and prisons, and schools of illegal immigration.

    Sure we pay less at our restaurants but does it offset those other costs? I am beginning to think that it has shifted in the other direction.

    Alta Bob (13384e)

  6. Not only that, they regularly run stories about the costs of running emergency rooms, courts and prisons, and schools (not to mention the ever-present traffic problems in L.A.) — all without mentioning illegal immigration.

    Patterico (4bda0b)

  7. Probably the most ill-conceived protest ever was the “Day Without Illegals” or whatever they called it.

    Made you realize just how uncrowded things could really be.

    Kevin Murphy (0b2493)

  8. please don’t deport my taco truck guy!

    assistant devil's advocate (b8df38)

  9. Patterico might consider mentioning the names of the reporters involved in the articles discussed; I’ve discussed one of them a few times.

    Patterico might also consider the best way to deal with the overall issue, by suggesting that his readers try to discredit those politicians who’ve put us in this situation by videotaping their answers to real questions and then uploading them to video sharing sites.

    TLB (f03ae1)

  10. If only the illegals were disappearing as fast as LAT subscribers.

    Perfect Sense (b6ec8c)

  11. I’m with you 100%, Patterico: deport the illegals first!

    (just kidding)

    Daryl Herbert (4ecd4c)

  12. Things will never improve as long as we have a president who feels that Mexicans have an inherent “right” to “migrate” into our country. Jorge Bush and Juan McCain both believe that.

    Illegal immigration about one thing: Cheap, illegal, black market labor for firms. Period.

    RG (f6cafd)

  13. Do we have the resources to prosecute more than a token number of reentry cases? I remember reading stories just last year about people getting released while awaiting deportation hearings because we didn’t have space to hold them.

    One suspects agents are discouraged from submitting cases for prosecution unless there are other criminal charges involved.

    Eric (884ea6)

  14. First you have the issue of caseloads to run these guys and gals through the court system, but the article states they are quick cases due to the existing deportation orders prior.

    Then even if the case goes your way in California it is my understanding that it’s almost standing room only in the jails you have, so you can’t overload the prisons or another judge will bounce them back out.

    Are prisoners given early release just to throw someone else in the front door like I have read many places?

    I recall some stats like some only serving 25% of their sentence to make room for others.

    SlimGuy (ea6549)

  15. More from the L.A SLIMES which favors illegal imagration just like any liberal left-wing rag

    krazy kagu (2768c2)

  16. Let me apply some FACTS to the reporting and the commentary here.

    First, the Central District doesn’t do as many of these cases as other districts because the prime targets for these prosecutions roll out of the California prison system, and the Los Angeles metropolitan area doesn’t have a state prison.

    Instead, these cases are done in large numbers in Fresno and Sacramento due to the number of state penitentiaries in the Eastern District of California.

    In the Fresno end of the district you have Corcoran, Avenal, and the women’s prison in Chowchilla.

    The prosecutive guideline is that any illegal alien state prisoner being processed for release following the completion of his sentence, and who was convicted of an aggravated felony — a crime of violence or a drug trafficking crime — is then tagged by ICE for federal prosecution. On the day of their release they are taken into federal custody, and their case is presented to the federal grand jury, usually within a week.

    There are a steady stream of these cases as there is a steady stream of inmates leaving state prisons as their sentences expire. The feds select those prisoners with aggravated felony convictions because of the belief they are the worst offenders — most have significant criminal histories — and limited resources require prioritizing who gets picked.

    When I started with the US Attorney’s Office in 1992, these “illegal reentry” cases were shared by the newest members of the office. You could generally indict a case in 6 questions, spending less than 5 minutes in the grand jury. The proof at trial was simply that the person was previously deported, and were then found back inside the US. Where were they found? In prison. Pretty easy stuff. At any given time a new AUSA might have 10-15 such cases.

    In around 1996, our office was given funding by ICE to hire a “Special Assistant US Attorney” who would work only on criminal immigration matters — about 90% of which were the “illegal reentry” cases. But, that SAUSA could do 20-30 such cases a a week, and might carry as many as 100-120 cases at any given time. It was really a “factory” like approach.

    An alien with an prior aggregated felony conviction might be looking at as much as 10 years in prison on the illegal re-entry charge. So there was a standard plea offer — two years on illegal re-entry where the prosecution agreed to not file for the aggravated term — and another 6 months for being illegally present in the US.

    99% of them took the deal, and went to federal prison for 3 more years before being deported. The Border Patrol did most of these cases, not ICE. They would go to the prison, review the prisoner files of the guys up for release, and then get their Alien Files to see when they were previously deported. The SAUSA’s I worked with did about 1000 such cases each over the course of a year. A lot of it, however, is finding cooperation from the Federal Defender. If they want to gum up the works and slow everything down, they can. That causes overcrowding at the local jails and detention centers, and it can lead to dozens of unnecessary trials, everyone of which results in 60-80 citizens being brought in for jury selection.

    The border districts did a lot of these kinds of cases too. Arizona’s policy about someone having 13 arrests had to do with persons arrested not coming out of a prison, but simply illegally crossing the border 13 times. THey got deported each of the first 12, and would face prosecution for the 13th.

    Again, setting that number isn’t about trying to avoid doing the work, its simply about trying to prioritize where the manhours are going to be spend when there are a finite number of manhours avaiable to prosecute all the crimes Congress has defined.

    WLS (68fd1f)

  17. Let me apply some FACTS to the reporting and the commentary here.

    First, the Central District doesn’t do as many of these cases as other districts because the prime targets for these prosecutions roll out of the California prison system, and the Los Angeles metropolitan area doesn’t have a state prison.

    Instead, these cases are done in large numbers in Fresno and Sacramento due to the number of state penitentiaries in the Eastern District of California.

    All that does is show that the feds aren’t bothering to prosecute people unless they went to state prison.

    The SAUSA’s I worked with did about 1000 such cases each over the course of a year. A lot of it, however, is finding cooperation from the Federal Defender. If they want to gum up the works and slow everything down, they can. That causes overcrowding at the local jails and detention centers, and it can lead to dozens of unnecessary trials, everyone of which results in 60-80 citizens being brought in for jury selection.

    Yup. That’s true of all crimes in all courtrooms.

    The border districts did a lot of these kinds of cases too. Arizona’s policy about someone having 13 arrests had to do with persons arrested not coming out of a prison, but simply illegally crossing the border 13 times. THey got deported each of the first 12, and would face prosecution for the 13th.

    Again, setting that number isn’t about trying to avoid doing the work, its simply about trying to prioritize where the manhours are going to be spend when there are a finite number of manhours avaiable to prosecute all the crimes Congress has defined.

    And my argument is that the government should prioritize these cases more highly, because merely deporting the guy on his TWELFTH re-entry is patently absurd on its face.

    Again, I’m not blaming the local office — although I do know they did away with the fast-track program a few years back that had jacked up their prosecution rates for a while. I blame the Bush Administration for not devoting more resources to immigration in general, and this aspect of fighting illegal immigration specifically.

    Patterico (4bda0b)

  18. I’m not going to claim the Bush Administration has been strong on illegal immigration but in the past 2 years it has devoted more resources to identifying and deporting criminal aliens through the Criminal Alien Program. However, local authorities have to participate and not all do.

    DRJ (a431ca)

  19. Patterico @ 17:

    I think I agree with just about everything you say. But that doesn’t change the fact that if you want more of something, you need to give up something.

    All 4000 federal prosecutors in this country could probably be devoted to illegal entry and re-entry cases if you want to prosecute every person who attempts to cross the border without permission.

    I assume that’s not what you are proposing, so the answer to what it is you are seeking lies somewhere between what is being done now and having all 4000 federal prosecutors addressing one issue.

    Right now the emphasis is on prosecuting convicted violent criminals who are about to be released from state prisons. One alternative would be to simply deport these same illegals to their home country without having them serve any additional time in federal prison. You clearly don’t want that because your complaint is that too few prosecutions are taking place. So, in addition to prosecuting the violent criminal illegal alients, you want something more.

    Another point of emphasis currently is the prosecution of coyotes — people who make a living guiding illegals across the border and around immigration points of entry. This effort actually works hand-in-hand with the efforts to prosecute cases of “human trafficking”, where the illegals are being brought in for the purpose of not simply immigrating illegally, but to serve as an unlawful workforce for some domestic industry. Human Trafficking is one of five Attorney General priorities.

    There are prosecution efforts being made against employers that provide a reason for illegals to circumvent the immigration laws to come here. Its lost opportunity cost every month a Mexican carpenter sits in Chihuahua making $2 an hour or being unemployed, while he hears from family and friends about his cousin working in Los Angeles for a roofing contractor and making $12 an hour – a job he got by going to Home Depot and sitting in the parking lot for 15 minutes. That worker is going to come north, and he’s going to keep coming north as long as the opportunities are available. Its a risk/reward calculation.

    But you seem to want to prosecute more simple border-crossers as an effort to combat the wider societal ills created by the flood of illegals. Are you willing to pay the consequential costs of that approach?

    As for the unnecessary trials that would be generated by the urge to zealously prosecute a larger number of simple border crossers — its a crime that has a maximum 6 month sentence. How much of prosecutorial and judicial resources of the federal criminal justice system do you want to dedicate to such an offense? Or, if you want greater punishment, how many federal jail cells do you want filled with border-crossers?

    Fresno has 2 full time and one senior status trial judges in the Federal Court there. By comparison, the Fresno Superior Court has more than 50 judges. I think the CDCA has 37 federal judges. I’d have to guess at home many state judges there are — 400?.

    Two AUSA’s doing nothing but illegal entry or re-entry cases can do 1000 a year each. If only 20% went to trial because the federal defenders decided to put a halt to a zealous prosecutorial effort to arrest and try every border crosser, that would be 400 cases. It takes a day to pick a jury and put on the evidence. So you are talking about 400 trial days a year to do 400 cases.

    That’s pretty much every business day in a federal court for the year.

    Addressing the problem of illegal immigration with a case-by-case prosecutorial effort would pretty much close down the federal courts to any other effort. It might seem frustrating that more isn’t done one illegal at a time, one trial at a time, one jury at a time.

    I don’t pretent to have a magic bullet to solve the problem, but going about it one illegal at a time isn’t the answer.

    WLS (68fd1f)


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