Thursday, January 5, 2017

Prosecutions of illegal entry a driving force in mass incarceration in US – report

Mexican nationals account for 15% of federal prison population as illegal entry prosecutions make up half of all criminal cases in US federal court system in 2015

By Renée Feltz, The Guardian
July 14, 2016

The Obama administration’s prosecution of immigrants who cross the border into the US is a driving force in mass incarceration, according to a new report.

Cases against immigrants for having illegally entered the country, known as illegal entry and re-entry, accounted for half of all criminal cases in the US federal court system last year, a report from Justice Strategies and Grassroots Leadership found. Non-citizens currently make up nearly a quarter of the total federal prison population, with Mexican nationals alone accounting for 15%.

Now several US judges who sentenced thousands of immigrants say the zero-tolerance policy for such cases they helped enforce was ineffective and should end.

“The only thing we have done is destroyed the lives of many people whose only crime is a desire to exercise their human rights to feed and care for themselves and their families,” said retired judge Felix Recio, who served as a federal magistrate from 1999 to 2013 in Brownsville, Texas, across the border from Matamoros, Mexico.

Recio is one of five retired federal judges, along with former prosecutors and public defenders from border districts in Texas and Arizona, who are featured in the report that critically examines a decade-old immigration enforcement initiative called “Operation Streamline”.[...]

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