In the 10 full months since Robert Pitman took over as U.S. attorney for the Western District of Texas, the number of immigrants prosecuted for illegal re-entry of a deported alien in Austin has dropped 46 percent compared with the same time frame a year earlier, according to an American-Statesman analysis of federal court data.
The decrease in the number of immigrants charged with the felony crime began two years ago but has accelerated under Pitman, who was sworn in Oct. 3 as the top federal prosecutor in the district that includes Austin.
Pitman said the drop in illegal re-entry prosecutions followed the loss of funding for an assistant U.S. attorney who had been designated to work solely on immigration cases. He noted that those identified as being in the country illegally but not prosecuted for illegal re-entry are still being deported and are among the record numbers of undocumented immigrants in Austin and other areas of Central and South Texas who have been deported this year.
An Obama administration policy encourages law enforcement officers to focus on immigrants who pose a threat to national security or public safety.
“We have been concentrating in the Austin division on identifying individuals who have serious criminal histories and prioritizing them for prosecution,” Pitman said in an interview.