NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Courts Swamped By Immigration Cases

January 2, 2002

Federal courts along the U.S.-Mexico border are being overwhelmed by a flood of drug and immigration cases and a shortage of judges, reports USA Today. As a result, federal judges are taking shortcuts, sometimes accepting guilty pleas and imposing sentences en masse.

  • In 2000 alone, there were more than 1.6 million arrests of illegal aliens in the southwest border area.
  • Drug seizures there in 2000 included nearly 2.2 million pounds of marijuana and more than 38,000 pounds of cocaine.
  • From 1994 through 2000, there was a 210 percent jump in criminal filings per judge in border courts and the number of agents and prosecutors in the border jurisdictions of California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas has almost doubled to nearly 15,000.

To meet the 70-day federal deadline for trial after indictment, border judges offer breaks in prison time for defendants who waive time-consuming pre-sentencing reports.

Although the federal judiciary is authorized to have 862 federal judges (who are appointed for life) there are 94 vacancies on the federal bench.

Source: Toni Locy, "Border courts overwhelmed," USA Today, January 2, 2002.

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