New Mexico courts swamped by criminal immigration cases

The federal courts in New Mexico have faced a ballooning of criminal felony immigration cases over the course of the last five years, according to new research. The study on courts in the United States found that New Mexico has experienced a jump of as much as 80 percent in such cases.

According to nonprofit research organization The Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, which focuses on spending and staffing in the federal government and is part of Syracuse University, 3749 such cases were handled last year in New Mexico, a massive rise on the 2078 cases dealt with four years earlier in 2011. Federal court judges in Las Cruces, which deals with most immigration cases in the New Mexico federal district, has been forced to cope with an enormous backlog of cases dealing with immigrants that have already been deported from the United States, only to come back again.

Experts, judges and prosecutors believe that the rise is partly the result of an increase of apprehensions of undocumented immigrants on the US border, the Albuquerque Journal claims. However, the US Attorney also has the ability to put all re-entries into the country on a “fast-track” felony program, while judges in New Mexico tend to give out shorter sentences to border crossers with no other criminal record or charges.

Meanwhile border districts such as those in Arizona and Texas treat undocumented immigrants as having committed a misdemeanor, often resulting in jail sentence of no more than six months. Some experts are calling for the states to develop a more unified policy.