More than half of all federal prosecutions lodged in April 2011 were for immigration-related offenses, reported the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University. TRAC, Prosecutions for April 2011 (July 19, 2011).
According to data obtained through Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests from the Department of Justice, federal prosecutors brought 15,173 new cases nationwide in April. Of these, a full 55.4% were related to immigration activities. TRAC, Prosecutions for April 2011. The leading immigration offense was unlawful entry, INA § 275, 8 U.S.C. § 1325. TRAC, Immigration Prosecutions for April 2011 (July 19, 2011).
These statistics and similar data from recent months take on a different level of significance in light of the Ninth Circuit’s declaration of a judicial emergency in Arizona. In Re Approval of the Judicial Emergency Declared in the District of Arizona, 2011 U.S. App. LEXIS 4491 (9th Cir. March 2, 2011). The Ninth Circuit Judicial Conference, comprised of six judges from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and five from the district courts within the Ninth Circuit, extended a temporary emergency declaration until February 19, 2002. A judicial emergency suspends the time limits imposed by the Speedy Trial Act.
Much of the court’s reasoning for recognizing a judicial emergency stems from the increase in immigration-related prosecutions in Arizona. In recent years, thanks to a DHS program called “Operation Streamline,” “the United States Attorney’s Office in Tucson has doubled its number of prosecutors and empaneled a third grand jury in January 2011…. Presently, Tucson division magistrate judges hear 70 Operation Streamline cases per workday.” In Re Approval of the Judicial Emergency, 2011 U.S. App. LEXIS 4491 *12, *13. While the Border Patrol and U.S. Attorney’s Office have received extra funding to prosecute immigration offenses, the federal courts have not. In Re Approval of the Judicial Emergency, 2011 U.S. App. LEXIS 4491 *14.
Tragically, the late Chief Justice of the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona, John Roll, was killed while attending Representative Gabrielle Giffords’ public event in Tucson to speak with her about the courts’ insufficient resources. In Re Approval of the Judicial Emergency, 2011 U.S. App. LEXIS 4491 *21.