- Category: Race & Liberation
- Created on Saturday, 17 September 2011 18:40
- Written by CINDY CARCAMO
Immigration offenses makes Latinos majority in federal prison
BY CINDY CARCAMO
For the first time, Latinos make up more than half of all federal felony offenders sentenced so far this fiscal year, according to a report released by the U.S. Sentencing Commission.
Immigration violations — including illegal crossings and other crimes such as human smuggling — account for most of the increase in the number of Latinos sentenced to prison over the last 10 years, according to the commission’s data.
The rise may be due to the unprecedented number of deportations under the Obama administration after the launch of a controversial program called Secure Communities. The program checks the fingerprints of every person booked by local law enforcement agencies against Department of Homeland Security databases for immigration violations.
Launched in March of last year in Orange County, the program is intended identify and deport people who are in the country illegally and suspected of or convicted of serious crimes. However, the program has come under fire lately by immigration activists and some law enforcement officials who say the vast majority of people targeted under the program were arrested for offenses as minor as selling street food without a permit. Advocates also say in practice the program targets anyone booked into police custody, including crime victims and non-criminals, for transfer to immigration authorities.
In Orange County, about 48 percent of all people booked on suspicion of felonies were Hispanics from July 1, 2010 to June 30 of this year, according to Orange County Sheriff’s Department officials. However, this number does not include people suspected of committing immigration offenses.
So far this federal fiscal year — ending Sept. 1 — Latinos make up 50.3 percent of all people sentenced to federal prison, The Associated Press reported. Whites make up 26.4 percent while blacks account for 19.7 percent.
The Latino number is a milestone, representing a major demographic shift; last year Latinos made up just 16 percent of the United States population, according to The Associated Press.
“The implications for Hispanics are huge when you think of the number of families affected by having their breadwinners put away for what in some cases would be considered a non-violent offense.” said Fordham University Law School professor Deborah Denno, an expert on racial disparities in the criminal justice system.
The changed demographics are already sparking debate among commissioners and experts who are studying the impact of expedited court hearings along the border, The Associated Press reported.