Feds Allow Illegal Aliens to Cross Border 14 Times Before Charging Them With Felony, Sheriff Tells Congress

May 3, 2011 - 3:53 PM

larry dever

Cochise County Arizona Sheriff Larry Dever testified at a May 3, 2011 House hearing on border security that lax policies in Texas on prosecuting federal crimes such as drug and human smuggling make it more difficult to thwart criminal activities on the U.S./Mexico border. (CNSNews.com/Penny Starr)

(CNSNews.com) – Sheriff Larry Dever of Cochise County, Ariz., told a House subcommittee today that in one U.S. attorney's district in Texas illegal aliens are allowed to be caught crossing the border 7 times before they are charged with a misdeamanor and 14 times before they are charged with a felony.

Dever further said the policies call for considering federal human smuggling charges only if at least 6 illegal aliens are being transported.

“There are policies in place that establish thresholds for quantities of drugs and numbers of illegal aliens before consideration for prosecution can be entertained,” Dever said in his written testimony before the Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security. “In at least one Federal District in Texas, if you are caught smuggling less than 750 kilos (1,653 pounds) of marijuana, you will not be subjected to prosecution.”

“If you are caught smuggling fewer than 6 illegal aliens, you will not be subject to prosecution,” Dever said. “And if you are a lone illegal border crosser, you get at least seven chances before you are even charged with a misdemeanor.”

“And after that, you get seven more chances before you are eligible for prosecution of a second offense felony,” Dever said.

The sheriff also said that even with added resources on the border, effective control can be hampered by “ideology.”

“Advances in technology, increases in the number of personnel, and equipment enhancements are limited in their effectiveness by strategic and tactical application -- all of which is driven by ideology and policy,” Dever said.

“While law enforcement on our side of the border are constrained in many ways, the bad guys know no such boundaries and learn very quickly from our foibles,” he said.

The "federal district" in Texas referenced by Dever is one of four in that state, each of which holds a U.S. attorney's office: one for each district -- Texas Southern District, headed by U.S. Attorney Jose Angel Moreno; Texas Western, headed by John E. Murphy; Texas North, James T. Jacks; and Texas Eastern, John Malcolm Bales.

Nationwide, there are 94 U.S. attorney's offices. Five of those federal districts are on the border with Mexico.

henry cuellar

Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Tex.). (CNSNews.com/Penny Starr)

Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) asked another witness at the hearing, Ronald Vitiello, deputy chief, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Department of Homeland Security, what the “official policy is of the United States of America” is when it comes to drug thresholds in Texas.

“My understanding is now in the southern district of Texas, if you catch somebody with 220 pounds or less, let’s say marijuana, if the local folks don’t take those cases, then that person is going to be released, is that correct?” Cuellar said.

“I’m not specifically aware of Laredo’s threshold scenario with the U.S. attorney’s office, but I can assure you what we do there and what we expect inspectors to do across the nation is to refer these cases,” Vitiello said, adding that the cases are referred to the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Cuellar pressed Vitiello again to answer his question.

“My question is, what is the policy of the United States of America when it comes to somebody being caught with drugs at a checkpoint,” Cuellar said.

Vitiello still did not directly answer the question but told Cuellar, “What we do is call the DEA.”