Saturday, June 21, 2008

Florida lags the nation in illegal immigration prosecutions

At the U.S.-Mexico border in Texas, U.S. officials charge many of those crossing with federal crimes, rather than civil violations under immigration law. The result, in effect since 2005. has been a dramatic increase in the national rate of immigration prosecutions and convictions.

Those prosecutions lag in South Florida, where convictions are down from last year. The projected rate of immigration prosecutions are expected to rise 2 percent this year, while across the country, federal immigration prosecutions will be up 73 percent for the same period.

In 2005, federal officials kicked off Operation Streamline, a program that brings federal charges in immigration cases. The program began in Texas and has expanded across the Southwest border states. But a spokesman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection in Washington said Operation Streamline does not operate in Florida.

A former president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association's South Florida Chapter, Scott D. Devore said South Florida's federal prosecutors focus more on cases against corrupt public officials and smugglers. In addition, federal prosecutors generally "have more of an opportunity to catch and prosecute" undocumented immigrants along the border, he said.

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