Posted on September 27, 2011

Charges for Illegal Re-Entry on Rise in Alabama

Kent Faulk, The Birmingham News, September 25, 2011

Jesus Alejandro Meraz-Martinez has spent more than half his life in the Birmingham area. During that time, he has been sent back to his native Mexico an even dozen times.

Nine times he voluntarily left after being arrested by federal immigration authorities. He went before judges in three other cases.

After one arrest on Oct. 9, 2006, by the U.S. Border Patrol in Santa Teresa, N.M., he was convicted of illegally re-entering the country and served an 18-month sentence in prison before being deported.

The 33-year-old man, who has worked in construction, has been back in an Alabama jail since July, awaiting his Jan. 3 sentencing after pleading guilty Sept. 15 to another illegal re-entry charge. That charge carries another possible prison sentence and a 13th deportation.

Meraz-Martinez is part of the growing number of people in Alabama and the nation charged with illegal re-entry by an alien previously deported–a crime that now represents nearly a quarter of all federal criminal prosecutions in the United States.

In Alabama, the number of cases filed by federal prosecutors has more than doubled in the past five years–from 33 cases during fiscal year 2005-2006 to 78 so far this fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30.

Alabama’s numbers, however, are just a tiny fraction of the 35,836 illegal re-entry charges filed nationwide in fiscal year 2010, according to the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse. {snip}

Illegal re-entry is a charge that applies when a person is deported and then returns without legal permission. U.S. attorneys in each of the nation’s 94 federal districts have discretion over whether to prosecute such cases and how often.