Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Criminal Charges Vs. Immigrants Surge

Enough episodes in which the undocumented rounded up in ICE raids are charged with criminal, rather than civil, offenses have abound over the last few months. Homeland Security proudly confirms it. Lawyers noticed as the case started clogging the federal courts. Well, it's no longer impression or braggadocio but hard statistics. In March 57% of all new criminal charges in federal court touched on immigration. The Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse that does research on the federal courts got the figures from the Justice Department through Freedom-of-Information Act. The department guardedly confirmed the analysis. (See LA Times article.) Nativists naturally laud the get-tough policy, but defense lawyers see a travesty of justice. Immigrants are being herded into court, charged criminally with inadequate legal representation, and sentenced to do time before deportation -- carrying with them a criminal record. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff hopes immigrants get the message.

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