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Courts need $40M for border plan

  Immigration  -   POSTED: 2010/06/30 16:41

President Barack Obama's $600 million border security plan seems to have it all: More than 1,000 agents, seven gunrunner teams, five FBI task forces and more prosecutors and immigration judges.

But it doesn't include $40 million to help the already overwhelmed federal courts along the U.S.-Mexico border that will likely be inundated with additional drug and other criminal cases, a judiciary official tells The Associated Press.

Increased patrols will mean more arrests and more cases sent to the five district courts on the border, from California to Texas. The courts handle cases including drug trafficking, smuggling and illegal immigrants charged with other serious crimes.

"The current workload in our Southwest border courts is staggering," said James Duff, director of the Administrative Office of the United States Courts.

Duff said the judiciary asked Congress for the $40 million on June 22 after realizing it wasn't sent with Obama's plan. He said judiciary requests are usually included with the president's budget proposals, but wasn't in this case.

White House spokesman Luis Miranda said the request wasn't submitted with the president's because it's a separate branch of government.

Obama's plan does include more money for immigration judges, which operate in the executive branch. But those judges deal almost exclusively with civil deportation matters, not criminal cases, like the district courts.

The chief judge for the District of Arizona in Tucson, located in what's become the busiest corridor for illegal immigration and drug smuggling, said he fears that increased patrols will bring even more cases to his already swamped court.


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