The Washington Times

Criminal prosecutions of immigrants by federal authorities surged to a record high in March, as immigration cases accounted for the majority ? 57 percent ? of all new federal criminal cases brought nationwide that month, according to a report published Tuesday by a nonpartisan research group.

Immigration cases also made up more than half of new federal prosecutions in February, reflecting a major emphasis on immigration by the Bush administration and a policy shift to expand the use of criminal, rather than civil, charges in its efforts to curb illegal immigration.

In March, according to the report, narcotics cases, the next largest category, were 13 percent of new prosecutions by the Justice Department. The third-largest category, weapons cases, were 5 percent.

The report, by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, a data analysis organization affiliated with Syracuse University, was based on figures from the Justice Department?s Executive Office for United States Attorneys. The group obtained the figures through the Freedom of Information Act.

The record number of 9,350 new immigration prosecutions in March was part of a ?highly unusual surge? that began in January, the report said, and represented 73 percent more new immigration cases compared with March 2007. Most cases were in districts along the border with Mexico and were part of a rapidly expanding program by the Border Patrol and the Justice Department to press criminal charges against virtually all immigrants caught crossing the border illegally in some sectors.

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