Federal prosecutors in Arizona bring more cases than their counterparts in the other 93 U.S. Attorney’s offices, many of them related to immigration, according to a report released this week by Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University.
The Arizona U.S. Attorney’s Office initiated 20,818 prosecutions between October 2009 to May 2010 — a 26 percent increase over the same period a year earlier and double the amount over the same time in fiscal 2008, according to the report by TRAC, a public interest group which compiles criminal justice data.
The numbers mean that prosecutors in Arizona filed almost one fifth of all federal cases, even though Arizona has only about two percent of the country’s population. The TRAC report did not provide statistics about the performance of any other U.S. Attorney’s office.
The statistics have political implications because the vast majority of the prosecutions, 84 percent, are related to immigration. The report does specify what types of immigration cases are brought in the district, but routine deportations are thought likely to comprise many of them.
The state has been a battleground over immigration. Republicans have slammed President Barack Obama and his administration’s efforts to combat illegal immigration, saying federal law enforcement authorities have failed to halt the flood of illegal entry in the U.S.
Dennis Burke, who has led the Phoenix-based U.S. Attorney’s office since September, told the Verde Independent that there are more prosecutions because his office has hired more prosecutors.
The office had 151 Assistant U.S. Attorney in March 2010 — a 36 percent increase from September 2005. The number of federal prosecutors across the country only increased by 9 percent over the same period.
“[My predecessors] just didn’t have the resources,” Burke told the newspaper.
Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R) signed into law earlier this year stringent legislation that would make it easier to prosecute and deport illegal immigrants. The U.S. Justice Department has won an order delaying implementation of the new law, citing constitutional and civil rights concerns. A federal judge in a preliminary injunction in July kept the most divisive parts of the legislation from taking effect.
A spokesman for the Arizona governor told the Verde Independent that the uptick of federal prosecutions in the state seems to suggest that border security is a bigger problem than it was in years past.
“These efforts to arrest and prosecute are good, but they are not enough,” Brewer spokesman Paul Senseman told the newspaper.