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

July 14, 2016
The Guardian

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.