While certainly a politically charged and divisive issue, immigration has been at the top of the federal government's priority list, particularly since the terror attacks of September 11. Recently, the government is spending more resources to catch illegal immigrants living in the United States. Because of our border with Canada, Michigan has become a hunting ground for US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials. The number of prosecutions related to illegal immigrants has tripled in the last 3 years.
The federal government is taking a stronger stand on prosecuting immigrants who are in the United States illegally by charging them with felonies in federal court, which, if convicted, will prevent them from obtaining legal status as a US citizen in the future.
The maximum penalty for illegally re-entering the U.S. ranges from two years for first offenders to 20 years for those deported after convictions for a serious felony in the U.S.
Recently, the U.S. Attorney in Detroit, Barbara McQuade reportedly said "When people are here illegally and engaging in criminal behavior, or repeatedly disregarding deportation orders, we have an obligation to enforce and promote respect for the law."
However, many criminal defense attorneys and some judges feel that the federal government is wasting resources and space in the jails. Many of the illegal immigrants now being prosecuted are those who are here to work, have minor run-ins with the police, and face six months or less in federal custody. Critics say these types of individuals should be deported quickly, not prosecuted.
Some legal experts say prosecuting illegal re-entry cases is an easy way for authorities to make the public think they're combating illegal immigration. "On paper, it looks great, but in reality, who are they prosecuting? And what are they prosecuting them for?" said David Leopold of Cleveland, president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. "I'm not sure this kind of use of tax dollars is making America safer."
Detroit's Chief Federal Defender, Miriam Siefer told the media recently that "The vast majority of these cases involve guys who have gotten picked up on traffic offenses and have nothing to do with national security."
Additionally, many critics are concerned that the government is using racial profiling to target illegal immigrants. Although they support the task of attacking illegal immigration in the United States, they are concerned that legal immigrants are being stopped in a search for illegal immigrants.