Prosecutions of illegal immigrants have soared in recent months, now accounting for half of all federal cases, the Los Angeles Times reports. Some 9,350 illegal immigrants faced federal charges in March of this year, up from 3,746 in March 2007, as the Bush administration ratcheted up efforts to use jail time, and the prospect of a criminal record, as a tactic to dissuade illegal border crossers.
"The results of this criminal prosecution initiative have been striking," says Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, whose department is still beefing up staff along the border to boost the effort. But with jail sentences averaging about a month, critics assert valuable federal resources are being wasted. "Immigration cases are dominating the federal court system these days," one researcher says. "The volume of cases is really huge."