Study finds jump in immigration prosecutions

By Pete Yost

Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) -- New government data shows the Obama administration has sharply increased immigration prosecutions and has stepped up cases against white-collar crimes, drug violations, organized crime and official corruption.

An analysis compiled by a private group using government data also found that there has been a decline in the Justice Department's felony prosecutions aside from immigration cases, particularly outside the Southwest.

The study was recently released by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, a private, nonpartisan group based at Syracuse University that compiled the data from the first two years of the Obama administration and the last two years of the Bush administration.

Justice Department spokeswoman Jessica Smith said that the department cannot confirm TRAC's numbers or its methodology. She said the Justice Department's U.S. Attorney's offices filed a record number of criminal cases in U.S. District Courts last year.

"The U.S. attorneys' offices and the litigating divisions have been extremely busy with active investigations not necessarily reflected in these numbers, as well as the thousands of criminal cases they've pursued in the last two years," Smith said. "In fact, we've seen increases in the last two years in some of the most complex areas of criminal prosecution, including white collar, organized crime, public corruption and significant drug trafficking cases."

TRAC said that felony immigration prosecutions in federal court systems along the border from Houston to San Diego went up 259 percent from 2007 to 2010, increasing nearly 16,000 to 36,321.

Nationally, felony prosecutions that were not immigration cases totaled more than 18,500 in 2007 and 2008, the last two years of the George W. Bush administration, while prosecutions declined to just over 16,000 in the first two years of the Obama administration, according to TRAC.

In complex top-priority areas, drug prosecutions rose modestly to 26,805 last year, up from 26,336 in the last year of the Bush administration, TRAC found. White-collar crime prosecutions topped 9,700 last year, up from 8,108 in the last year of the Bush administration. There were 727 public corruption prosecutions last year, up from 675 in the last year of the Bush administration. Organized crime prosecutions were 572 last year, up from 450 in 2009 and 481 in 2008.

Weapons prosecutions totaled 7,614 last year, TRAC reported, down from 8,188 in 2009, 8,484 in 2008 and 8,919 in 2007.

Published: Fri, Feb 4, 2011