There is another arena in which the crush of immigration, in this case primarily the illegal variety, is breaking down institutions of the federal government, and I think this arena hasn't been much discussed. An article "Immigration Crisis Tests Federal Courts on Southwest Border," from The Third Branch: Newsletter of the Federal Courts, issue of June 2006, tells the story. Given that this publication is put out by the Administrative Office of the United States Courts, Office of Public Affairs (i.e it's an official government document), the article on their immigration crisis is astonishingly frank.
The article really speaks for itself, so the best thing I can do is provide you with a sampling of choice paragraphs to entice you into reading it:
"Not only judges are affected; all in the criminal justice system struggle to keep pace. 'You can add Border Patrol agents but if you do, you'd better think upstream. You'd better think marshals, you'd better think prosecutors, probation and pretrial services officers, defense lawyers, judges, and clerk's staffâ€”all of those things,' said Judge Robert Brack (D. N.M) in Las Cruces.
"In Las Cruces, Deputy-Clerk-in-Charge Marty Silva reports that taking lunch breaks is rare for members of her staff; working Saturdays and Sundays is common. Robert Kinney, who supervises the federal public defender's office there, says he could add six more lawyers tomorrow and 'keep them all with a full caseload.'
"In 2005, more than one-third of all federal felonies prosecuted in the United States came from five of the 94 judicial districtsâ€”the southwest border courts of the District of New Mexico, the Southern and Western Districts of Texas, the District of Arizona and the Southern District of California. The same appears to be the case in 2006, as 'organized chaos' remains part of the daily courthouse regimen.
"'Security is a main concern,' said Alex Ramos, the deputy U.S. marshal in charge of the Laredo division. The overwhelming majority of the prisoners offer no threat of violence, but their sheer numbers make full restraints necessary. 'In most federal courts, the ratio of prisoners to deputy marshals is one-to-one or two-to-one,' Ramos said. 'Here, as it is in most other border courts, it's more like 30-to-one even though we enlist help from other law enforcement agencies.'
"A person who enters the United States illegally to look for work and has no other criminal charge pending typically may be 'voluntarily returned' to Mexico more than a dozen times before facing the charge of illegal entry. Some did not get into federal court until they amassed 60 voluntary returns.
"Chief Judge William Downes of the District of Wyoming has served in Las Cruces as a visiting judge. In Wyoming, he said, he may sentence 75 people a year to long prison terms. In Las Cruces, he has sentenced 50 in a week.
"'The challenge that my border colleagues have is astonishing,' Downes said. 'I'll go down there for two weeks and I go home exhausted. But I can go home. They stay, day in and day out. I don't know how they deal with it. It is unbelievable the work they do. They are my heroes. They are at the front line of this crisis in our country.'"
Altogether, the article describes a classic example of consequences that slowly build toward disaster when — for convenience, and under political pressure — a society gets in the habit of winking at its basic laws.
While the article is explicitly about the burden levied by mass illegal immigration, there's also mention of the significant burden in these jurisdictions arising from drug-running cases. So it seems worth saying that that component of the burden would largely end if we legalized the $%#@^% [crap]. Yes, this is the libertarian point of view on recreational drugs. I, for one, would certainly trade the massive public tragedy and scourge of the drug trade (which exists only because the $%#@^% is illegal) in exchange for the isolated private tragedies of people who get themselves addicted. Consider the anti-analogy with alcohol — we don't have gunfights at the border and in American cities over hooch.