Our Voices

Statement on Increased Border Prosecutions

Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights is profoundly disappointed by the Biden administration’s plans to increase federal criminal prosecutions of migrants accused of nothing more than crossing a border. Decades of data on prosecutions for border crossing make it clear: mass incarceration does not deter people fleeing persecution.

Already immigration-related prosecutions account for over one-fourth of the federal criminal docket, at tremendous moral and financial cost. The United States has a dark history of using border crossing prosecutions to criminalize asylum-seeking families, including when the Trump administration sundered children from their criminally prosecuted parents. And prosecutions for border crossing are racially discriminatory, targeting Hispanic people at a rate of 99 percent, vastly disproportionate to their share of the immigrant population. The massive expenditure of taxpayer dollars wasted on border prosecutions would be better spent on resources proven to enhance fair and efficient adjudication of asylum applications, like a right to counsel in immigration court.

As Robert Kennedy said, “Our attitude toward immigration reflects our faith in the American ideal.” That faith tells us that the United States need not be a country that imprisons people for seeking safety.