New data from the Justice Department show that New Mexico has the fastest rate of growth in immigration prosecutions in the nation.
In 2013 New Mexico outpaced both Texas and Arizona in its increase in criminal immigration prosecutions, jumping by more than 47% in the first 11 months of the year. The West Texas district followed in second with a jump of 32%.
The increase was a dramatic shift for the state as immigration prosecution numbers for New Mexico had been down in recent years.
Sue Long is the co-director of the data research organization Transitional Records Access Clearinghouse. She says, without additional data, it’s tough to determine the exact reason for the shift, but she says one possibility could be a change in policy and discretion used when someone is picked up along the border.
"You can certainly deport that individual. The choice whether to criminally prosecute first and then deport is sort of another route. So when you’re seeing these trends they typically reflect changes in discretion being exercised…as well as resources obviously"
Immigration prosecutions declined in two southwest border districts. The fall was sharpest in Arizona, which saw about 21% fewer prosecutions this year than in 2012