David Jackson and Gary Marx, Chicago Tribune, March 12, 2012
Illinois U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin today announced a host of measures aimed at capturing the growing numbers of criminal suspects who find haven across America’s borders after they are charged with violent felonies in the United States.
In the long term, Durbin said he has spoken with Mexico’s ambassador about revisiting the extradition treaty between the two countries, which is more than 30 years old and omits serious crimes such as reckless homicide.
But he also spotlighted a series of immediate initiatives that include federal legislation designed to strengthen the Justice Department’s efforts to apprehend border-crossing fugitives.
Durbin said the reform measures were inspired by the Tribune’s ongoing “Fugitives from justice” investigation, which examined more than 200 international fugitive cases from the Chicago area and thousands more nationwide. The series identified chronic breakdowns that enabled suspects to flee trial for murder, rape and other felony charges by crossing a U.S. border.
Violent criminals were able to leave the country and remain at large because of an astonishing lack of coordination among U.S. Justice Department officials, county prosecutors and local police; a failure by these agencies to keep track of their cases; and inexplicable, years-long delays, the Tribune found.
Durbin said his proposed “Bringing Fugitives to Justice Act,” which he plans to introduce today, would designate roughly $1 million to $3 million per year in forfeited appearance and bail bonds from federal criminal cases to a new fund that will enhance efforts to apprehend international fugitives.
The fund, which would not create any new federal spending, will benefit the U.S. Marshals Service, U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and the Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs, Durbin said.
Durbin met with Mexican Ambassador Arturo Sarukhan on Feb. 29 to discuss revisiting the U.S.- Mexico extradition treaty to address certain barriers to extradition.
At that meeting, Durbin urged the ambassador to make sure several cases highlighted by the Tribune were being pursued to the best of Mexico’s ability. Durbin specifically cited five cases in which Chicago-area fugitives remain at large in Mexico, including four charged with murder and one with raping a child.