A national bipartisan effort to cut down the outsized prison population of the United States is beginning to gain traction; however, advocates for immigration reform say that the movement is overlooking the fact that thousands of undocumented men and women are being sent to prison in the United States every year because they do not have the right legal documents.
Crossing the border has become the most prosecuted of all federal crimes, with judges being so overloaded with these cases that they barely have time to deal with other crimes such as fraud and violent assaults. The great majority of the US prison population is now Latino, for no reason other than the increased prosecution of those who illegally enter the United States.
On Tuesday over 170 different organizations representing immigration reform, faith and criminal justice wrote to Loretta Lynch, the US attorney general, urging the Department of Justice to put an end to the prosecution of undocumented immigrants. “There’s a conversation going on about how to reduce mass incarceration, but at the same time you have leaders talking about mandatory minimums for people coming back into the country for basically petty immigration offenses,” says the director of Austin-based immigration advocacy group Grassroots Leadership, Bob Libal.
Libal added that many of the immigrants caught trying to cross the US border were simply trying to be reunited with family members already in the United States and that there was no good reason for throwing them into prison for doing so.