January 04, 2010

FEDERAL AUTHORITIES ANNOUNCE LARGE INCREASE IN CRIMINAL IMMIGRATION PROSECUTIONS IN CENTRAL VALLEY

47% increase in federal indictments over prior year

SACRAMENTO– United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner and Bureau of Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE)- Detention and Removal Office, Field Office Director Timothy Aitken announced today that in the most recent fiscal year, filings of criminal immigration cases in the Eastern District of California were at the highest level in ten years. In federal Fiscal Year 2009, ending September 30, there were 406 cases filed involving 414 defendants, representing a 45% increase in filings over FY 2008, during which there were 276 indictments. The FY 2009 figure represents a nearly 130% increase in filings over FY 2007, during which there were 177 criminal immigration cases filed. The cases almost all consisted of prosecutions of aliens with criminal records for illegal re-entry to the United States in violation of Section 1326 of Title 8 of the United States Code. The statistics do not include other prosecutions for producing or distributing counterfeit immigration cards, or for other immigration-related offenses.

The sharp increase in cases filed resulted from greater investigative and prosecutorial resources dedicated to such offenses. Earlier this year the United States Department of Justice authorized an additional criminal Assistant United States Attorney position in the Fresno office. Recently, the United States Attorney’s Office received word that it has been granted an additional position in its Sacramento office; it is anticipated this position will be staffed by Spring.

Almost all of the defendants targeted for criminal prosecution were aliens who were rearrested in the Eastern District of California after having previously served prison time for aggravated felonies in the United States, such as crimes of violence or drug trafficking crimes, and having previously been deported. Most defendants convicted under Section 1326 are sentenced to between two and six years in federal prison, and are required to serve at least 85% of that time before being re-deported. The Eastern District of California covers 34 counties in the Central Valley and the Sierras, from the Los Angeles County line to the Oregon border.

“The criminal aliens targeted for prosecution are among the worst of the worst. They are persons who previously had been convicted of serious crimes and deported, only to return to California and engage in further criminal activity in our communities. No matter where one stands in the larger debate over federal immigration laws, there can be little argument that these offenders warrant the vigorous enforcement actions undertaken over the past year. I commend the diligent work of the agents and prosecutors who have worked so hard to bring these cases, ” stated United States Attorney Wagner.

“These prosecutions send an important message to criminal aliens who believe they can treat deportation as little more than a revolving door,” said Timothy Aitken, the Field Office Director who oversees ICE detention and removal operations in Sacramento. “If you commit crimes in this country, get removed, and come back illegally, we will seek to prosecute you and put you in federal prison. We are a nation of immigrants, but we are also a nation of laws. ICE is bringing all of its tools to bear against those who show no regard for those laws.”

These cases were prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Daniel McConkie and Michael Anderson in the Sacramento office, and Assistant United States Attorneys Ian Garriques and Susan Phan in the Fresno office.

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