Federal court system swamped by immigration cases

Most federal prosecutions in the US are now immigration cases, with New Mexico no exception. The caseload has become so large; with numbers in the last two years doubling for undocumented immigrants apprehended by authorities, that a cap has been imposed by US Attorney, Damon Martinez. This is for 150 prosecutions of non-violent border crossers per month.

Law enforcement sources say there are many other hundreds of undocumented immigrants who could be but are not being, prosecuted each month. Immigrant advocates believe that undocumented immigrants who have committed no other offenses should not face prosecution in the first place. Martinez says his state has many other priorities, such as the prosecution of violent offenders in Indian country and Albuquerque.

Martinez says that the cap is not applicable to those with large criminal histories or to drug mules, who will still be prosecuted. The New Mexico US Attorney’s Office, which has around 75 attorneys, most of them in Albuquerque, has a shocking number of cases, extending far beyond immigration violations. These include an operation that saw the arrest of over 100 residents of Bernalillo on drug and firearms trafficking charges and arsons that torched businesses in Albuquerque recently, as well as dozens of defendants alleged to be part of the violent prison gang, known as Syndicato de Nuevo Mexico.

Martinez says that they have limited resources and need to make a priority of dealing with the broad range of serious criminal activity in the state.