BROWNSVILLE, Texas — The higher numbers of prosecutions tied to the “Zero Tolerance” policy are not a problem for attorneys from the U.S. Southern District of Texas. The District is accustomed large caseloads from recent years, officials say. Even with Zero Tolerance in place, the number of cases is actually lower than seen in 2014.
“We have been prosecuting illegal entry and illegal re-entry cases at numbers higher than this for a very long time,” said Ryan Patrick, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Texas. “This is nothing new to our offices on the southern border.”
Illegal entry cases are referred to as “1325s” based on the U.S. Code and are considered misdemeanors, while “1326s” or illegal re-entry are considered felony cases punishable by up to two and in some cases as many as 10 years in prison, Patrick said. Human smuggling cases are referred to as “1324” and are also considered felonies.
Under Zero Tolerance, prosecutors are ordered to take all cases referred by immigration authorities. A person who is caught and has already been convicted of a 1325 will then face a 1326 with each additional charge in the future, escalating the severity of punishment.
The recent blowback tied to the separation of families led to federal agencies to temporarily stop the referral of migrants who have their dependent children with them in order to not separate families.
When compared with 2017, in March and April of the current year, U.S. Border Patrol saw an increase of 620 percent and 720 percent in the number of unaccompanied minors and family units, respectively. In the case of regular apprehensions, authorities saw a 250 percent increase in March and 315 percent increase in April, respectively.
According to Patrick from conversations had with the regional leadership of the U.S. Border Patrol, the agencies are waiting for appropriate facilities to house families before resuming the referrals on those cases. Despite the higher numbers that are being presented in regards to illegal entry and illegal re-entry cases, the figures are not as high as some expect.
“While apprehensions are up, we are not quite to the numbers of 2014, 2015 and 2016 but we are getting close,” Patrick said referring to the years when South Texas saw a dramatic spike in migrants from countries other than Mexico (often called “OTMs”). As Breitbart Texas reported at the time, the higher number of migrants overwhelmed the capacity at federal detention centers.
Ildefonso Ortiz is an award-winning journalist with Breitbart Texas. He co-founded the Cartel Chronicles project with Brandon Darby and Stephen K. Bannon. You can follow him on Twitter and on Facebook. He can be contacted at Iortiz@breitbart.com.
Brandon Darby is managing director and editor-in-chief of Breitbart Texas. He co-founded the Cartel Chronicles project with Ildefonso Ortiz and Stephen K. Bannon. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.