A new report by the El Paso-based youth development organization Community Scholars shows that federal judges in El Paso are overwhelmed by cases related to Operation Streamline and a glut of vacancies of the federal bench. According to the KFOX report (“West Texas Federal Judges Flooded With Cases,” August 30):
Some new statistics KFOX has obtained said the federal court system in West Texas had more cases per judge than any other part of the Lone Star State.
According to the Community Scholars based in El Paso, the Western District of Texas handled more than 10,000 cases last year.
The Community Scholars said each judge in the Western District handles about 691 cases a year. That’s compared to 598 per judge in the Southern District, 594 per judge in the Eastern District, and 447 per judge in the Northern District.
Community Scholars said one problem is a number of judicial vacancies in the Western District and a federal program called “Operation Streamline.” In that program, illegal immigrants caught by Border Patrol are charged with a federal misdemeanor, so the immigrant has to go before a federal judge.
“Modify Operation Streamline so that no improper entry will be charged with a federal misdemeanor; instead they would just be forced to go back to their country,” said Jorge Zamora with Community Scholars.
The report also indicated the state courts in El Paso County appear to be in line with other Texas counties, if not slightly on the lighter side for caseloads.
On top of overwhelming the court system, federal judges from El Paso have also complained the program is ineffective at deterring unauthorized entry into the country (Lauren Gambino, “Program Prosecutes Illegal Immigrants Before Deporting Them,” News21.com, August 2010),
And U.S. Magistrate Judge Norbert Garney of the U.S. District Court in El Paso says he is seeing the same number of illegal immigrants pass through his courts as always.
“Does it (Streamline) discourage people from crossing the border? Of course it doesn’t,” Garney said. “Ten to 14 days [in jail] is a small price to pay for the opportunity to double, triple or even quadruple your income and start a better life for your family.”