On the border, I heard a reoccurring issue from Customs and Border Protection and other federal agents in the field. That many of the arrests they make for criminal acts on the border are not prosecuted.

Despite overwhelming evidence collected by investigators for assault on federal agents, possession of narcotics, and smuggling, it remains a challenge for agents to advance those cases.

One CBP agent I spoke with on the issue said: “We struggle to get the Assistant U.S. Attorneys to accept criminal cases despite overwhelming evidence and very serious crimes.”

He expand on this statement, “The AUSAs are so fickle on what gets prosecuted that they’re even turning down serious assaults of CBP Agents, stating, ‘Well, the Agent wasn’t even injured/severely injured,’ also despite often having many aggravating circumstances attached (use of weapon, high-speed flight in a vehicle, reckless disregard for public safety).”


Border Justice is not blind. The statue of justice that rests on top of  the old courthouse in downtown Nogales, Arizona. Image courtesy of Buck Clay.


The federal court system that handles these crimes is overwhelmed, of the 54,928 criminal cases initiated by federal prosecutors in 2015, about 51%—or 28,135—were filed in court districts neighboring the Mexican border. Hence, one problem that restricts case consideration. Another issue that has arisen from an overwhelmed system is the means to mitigate it.

An example of this mitigation was explained to me by another CBP agent, and it comes in the form of a time restraint given to CBP and other federal agents operating on the border by the AUSA,  in the form of a weekly cutoff. This cutoff restriction is not legal code, but an interoffice means of mitigation and was established as a weekly turnover for the sake of organization and reporting.