NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


April 27, 2007

Immigration-related felony cases are swamping federal courts along the Southwest border, forcing judges to handle hundreds more cases than their peers elsewhere, says the Associated Press.

Judges in Southern and Western Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and Southern California carry the heaviest felony caseloads in the nation. Consider:

  • Federal judges in those five districts handled one-third of all the felonies prosecuted in the nation's 94 federal judicial districts in 2005, according to federal court statistics.
  • Each judge in New Mexico, which ranked first, handled an average of 397 felony cases last year, compared with the national average of 84.

The main problem is that while Congress has increased the number of border patrol officers, the pace of the law enforcement has eclipsed the resources for the court system. Judges say they are stretched to the limit with cases involving drug trafficking or illegal immigrants who have also committed serious crimes. Judges say they need help.

A bill by Sen. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.), and co-sponsored by Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), and Texas Republican Sens. John Cornyn and Kay Bailey Hutchison, would help, by adding 10 permanent and temporary judges in Arizona, New Mexico, and Southern and Western Texas. Unfortunately, this proposal and others like it have gone nowhere in the past two years.

Source: Jennifer Talhelm, "Immigration-related cases clog courts," Houston Chronicle, April 27, 2007.


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