From Border to Border: ND Judges` Take on Immigration Cases | VideoRetha Colclasure | 12/15/2011
Judge Daniel Hovland has been to Arizona twice to help with sentencings and Judge Patrick Conmy once. Both are planning a return trip.
During a typical year in the federal courthouse in Bismarck, judges may sentence 50 people on immigration charges. Most of them will then serve prison time, and be deported. In Tucson, a single judge will see that many or more in a week.
Hovland said: "It`s busy. It`s an eye-opener."
He says the U.S. Border Patrol arrests about 1,000 people every day on the Arizona border. Only about 7 percent of them are charged criminally.
"That is all they can realistically handle," added Hovland. "If they were going to charge everyone it would cost billions of dollars."
It`s already expensive.
"The marshal service budget for housing illegal alien detainees is $15 million a month," said Conmy.
Most of the cases involve illegal immigrants who were arrested on a drug-related felony charge, like trying to smuggle cocaine, heroin or marijuana into the U.S.
"Whatever we`re doing is not solving the problem," said Conmy. "If we quit buying drugs in this country, that would solve the problem. Of course I don`t know how to do that, either."
And even those who are prosecuted and deported usually try to come back, often to be with their spouse and children who are U.S. citizens.
"It`s not a problem the courts can solve. It`s just not," said Conmy.
These judges say going to work in Arizona helps them see how wide-ranging and complex the immigration problem is.
Some of the people these judges saw had been pressured by gangs to drive a car full of drugs across the border. Judge Hovland says in one case he saw that woman had unknowingly acted as a decoy, because when she was pulled over and searched, two cars full of drugs behind her were waved through.