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Context of 'October 13, 2005: Republican Lawmaker Complains about US Attorney’s ‘Appalling Record of Refusal to Prosecute’ Undocumented Immigrant Cases'

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Carol Lam.Carol Lam. [Source: Common Dreams (,org)]Carol Lam is sworn in as the US Attorney for the Southern District of California. [Talking Points Memo, 2011] Lam is a former Assistant US Attorney, a former California Superior Court judge, and an acknowledged expert on white-collar crime and health care fraud. During her interview process for the US Attorney position, she described herself as “non-partisan,” and said she does not belong to any political party. When asked if she could support the Justice Department’s policies considering that she is not a Republican, she answered that “it is a responsibility of a US Attorney to effect the attorney general’s guidelines in a way that makes sense in the district.” White House Counsel Kyle Sampson (see 2001-2003) offered Lam the job, at which time she told him that he had not “made things easy by virtue of the fact that I was a non-partisan.” Lam’s ascension to her post was delayed by political infighting between powerful Republicans and Democrats. It is the first time in five years her district has had a presidentially appointed, Senate-confirmed US Attorney. There are 93 US Attorneys serving in the 50 states as well as in Puerto Rico, Guam, the Virgin Islands, and the Northern Marianas. All US Attorneys are appointed by the president with the advice and consent of the Senate, and serve under the supervision of the Office of the Attorney General in the Justice Department. They are the chief law enforcement officers for their districts. They serve at the pleasure of the president, and can be terminated for any reason at any time. Typically, US Attorneys serve a four-year term, though they often serve for longer unless they leave or there is a change in presidential administrations. [Iglesias and Seay, 5/2008, pp. 124; US Department of Justice, Office of the Inspector General, 9/29/2008]

Entity Tags: Carol C. Lam, US Department of Justice, D. Kyle Sampson

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties

US Representative Darrell Issa (R-CA) requests information from the Justice Department about the arrest of an alleged illegal alien smuggler from US Attorney Carol Lam (see November 8, 2002), the federal prosecutor who works the Southern California district. Issa asks for information about Lam’s decision not to prosecute Antonio Amparo-Lopez, who was arrested on suspicion of “alien smuggling” over the US-Mexican border. [US Department of Justice, 3/23/2007 pdf file] Issa was quoted in a December 2003 article in the Riverside, California, Press-Enterprise entitled “Border Agents Face Uphill Fight,” in which the Justice Department was criticized for not prosecuting immigrant smugglers frequently enough. Shortly thereafter, the same newspaper published an article detailing how one such smuggler, Amparo-Lopez, was arrested at a border checkpoint but was subsequently released. Lam will respond to Issa in mid-March, requesting that he direct his inquiries to the Justice Department in Washington. On May 24, Issa will receive a letter from Assistant Attorney General William Moschella, stating, “Based upon all of the facts and circumstances of his arrest, the United States Attorney’s Office declined to prosecute Mr. Amparo-Lopez.” [National Review, 3/28/2007]

Entity Tags: William E. Moschella, US Department of Justice, Darrell E. Issa, Carol C. Lam, Antonio Amparo-Lopez, Riverside Press-Enterprise

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties

US Representative Darrell Issa (R-CA) and 13 other representatives sign a letter to Attorney General John Ashcroft protesting the Justice Department’s policy towards prosecuting “alien smugglers,” or “coyotes,” who bring illegal immigrants across the US-Mexican border. Issa, who wrote the letter, says that the DOJ should adopt a “zero-tolerance” policy towards “alien smuggling” and should prosecute everyone accused of such a crime. Issa refers to decisions by US Attorney Carol Lam of the District of Southern California (see November 8, 2002) not to prosecute persons charged with the crime of “alien smuggling,” and references the case of Antonio Amparo-Lopez as an example of a “missed opportunity” to prosecute such an alleged criminal (see February 2, 2004). Issa writes: “It is unfortunate and unacceptable that anyone in the Department of Justice would deem alien smuggling, on any level or by any person, too low of a priority to warrant prosecution in a timely fashion. In our view, a lack of available resources for prosecution is not a valid reason for a decision not to prosecute and, in fact, would signify a mismanagement of your department’s priorities.” [US Department of Justice, 3/23/2007 pdf file] Issa represents California’s 49th District, which centers on San Diego and is part of Lam’s federal district. [Healthy City, 8/2011 pdf file] Assistant Attorney General William Moschella will send Issa a brief reply defending the Justice Department’s prosecution practices (see (December 30, 2004)). Issa’s spokesperson Frederick Hill will later tell columnist Byron York: “We were stumped in terms of getting information to explain the scope of the problem. We put the word out on the street that we were interested in getting more information about this.” York later writes, “Issa was hoping for a tip—perhaps from someone inside a law-enforcement organization—to give him the information he had been seeking.” [National Review, 3/28/2007]

Entity Tags: Frederick Hill, Antonio Amparo-Lopez, Byron York, Darrell E. Issa, William E. Moschella, Carol C. Lam, John Ashcroft, US Department of Justice

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties

Assistant Attorney General William Moschella sends a letter, written by staffers in the Justice Department’s Office of Legislative Affairs (OLA), to Representative Darrell Issa (R-CA). Issa and other House Republicans have written letters to the DOJ railing against certain US Attorneys’ “failures” to adequately prosecute undocumented immigrants and so-called “alien smugglers,” people who help undocumented immigrants cross the border from Mexico into the US (see February 2, 2004 and July 30, 2004). Issa’s primary target of criticism is Carol Lam of the Southern District of California. Moschella’s letter emphasizes the “enormous challenge” that Lam and other US Attorneys in border districts (Southern Texas, Western Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and Southern California) face “in trying to enforce our criminal immigration and narcotics laws along that border.” The number of immigration-related prosecutions in most of those districts has soared, the letter reads, straining those districts’ already-thin financial and personnel resources. The director of the Executive Office for US Attorneys (EOUSA) has already contacted Lam and other border-district US Attorneys, Moschella says, concerning ways to improve their “response[s] to immigration violations.” The EOUSA staff will draft a letter for Lam’s signature to respond to Issa in mid-2005. [US House of Representatives, Committee on the Judiciary, 4/13/2007 pdf file] Issa receives the letter on January 25, 2005. [National Review, 3/28/2007; US House of Representatives, Committee on the Judiciary, 4/13/2007 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Office of Legislative Affairs, Darrell E. Issa, US Department of Justice, Executive Office for US Attorneys (DOJ), Carol C. Lam, William E. Moschella

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties

Nineteen US Representatives, headed by Lamar Smith (R-TX) and Darrell Issa (R-CA), send a letter to President Bush warning of a “crisis along the Southwest border” of the nation “that needs immediate attention.” Smith and his fellow signatories complain that “coyotes,” or criminals who smuggle illegal immigrants across the border in attempts to avoid immigration procedures and the US Border Patrol, constitute a grave threat to national security. Smith references the case of Antonio Amparo-Lopez, a “coyote” whom, after being arrested, was let go by Carol Lam, the US Attorney in Southern California (see February 2, 2004 and July 30, 2004). Lam and other Justice Department officials have cited a severe lack of resources in their decisions not to prosecute low-level alleged criminals such as Amparo-Lopez. The signatories ask Bush to “dedicate additional resources and direct US Attorneys in the Southwest region to make the prosecution of human smugglers a priority.” Representative Randall “Duke” Cunningham is one of the signatories; he is under investigation by Lam’s office for corruption. Six weeks later, the Justice Department’s Office of Legislative Affairs sends what conservative columnist Byron York will call “a brush-off letter” in response. [US Department of Justice, 3/23/2007 pdf file; National Review, 3/28/2007]

Entity Tags: Office of Legislative Affairs, Antonio Amparo-Lopez, Byron York, Carol C. Lam, Darrell E. Issa, Randall (“Duke”) Cunningham, George W. Bush, Lamar Smith

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties

Representative Darrell Issa (R-CA) writes a letter to the US Attorney for Southern California, Carol Lam (see November 8, 2002), complaining about her “apparent instance of discretionary non-prosecution of criminal illegal aliens.” He says that Lam should immediately reverse her decision not to prosecute Alfredo Gonzales Garcia (also recorded as “Alfredo Garcia-Gonzalez”), a repeat offender currently in the custody of the Border Patrol; he writes, “Criminal alien repeat offenders pose a significant danger to our citizens and must be dealt with more severely than a 24-hour detention and release.” He continues: “Your office has established an appalling record of refusal to prosecute even the worst criminal alien offenders.… Every time one of these criminals is released, our communities become more dangerous.” [US House of Representatives, 10/13/2005 pdf file; US Department of Justice, 3/23/2007 pdf file; US House of Representatives, Committee on the Judiciary, 4/13/2007 pdf file] Issa and his fellow Republicans have long pressured Lam to prosecute more immigrant cases (see February 2, 2004, July 30, 2004, November 4, 2004 - (February 2005), (December 30, 2004), and September 23, 2005). Issa has also accused Lam, apparently without proof, of having a policy of not prosecuting “immigration ‘mules,’” apparently referring to immigrant “smugglers,” sometimes called “coyotes,” who help immigrants illegally cross the border from Mexico into the US. In June 2005, Lam denied having such a policy, but did note that “it is not physically possible to prosecute every alien (or coyote) who is arrested” and therefore her office “must focus its prosecutorial resources on those aliens who pose the greatest danger to the United States by their presence.” At the same time, Assistant Attorney General William Moschella wrote in response: “The Southern District of California (SDCA) does not have a policy against prosecuting coyotes, publicly stated or otherwise. Nor does any other district. In fact, SDCA has aggressively prosecuted coyotes for years, with an increasing number of cases in each year since 2001.” [US House of Representatives, Committee on the Judiciary, 4/13/2007 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Alfredo Gonzales Garcia, Darrell E. Issa, William E. Moschella, Carol C. Lam

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties

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