Department of Justice Audits Southwest Border Prosecution Initiative

The Inspector General’s Office of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has performed an audit of federal border prosecution funding received by Doña Ana County in New Mexico, finding several instances of improper requests for reimbursement of funds. The audit of Doña Ana County is significant because it offers a window into the functioning of Southwest Border Prosecution Initiative.

The Audit Division of the Inspector General’s Office examined funding received under the Southwest Border Prosecution Initiative (SWBPI). The Office of Justice Programs (OJP) disburses funds under the initiative to reimburse local governments for prosecution costs associated with criminal cases near the Mexican border. Many drug trafficking and other criminal cases along the border are initiated by federal law enforcement agencies, but they are then referred to state or county authorities because they do not meet federal prosecution guidelines.

Since SWBPI was established in 2002, local jurisdictions have been able to apply for reimbursement of costs associated with prosecution and/or pre-trial detention in cases that are declined by a U.S. Attorney’s Office. In 2012, Congress appropriated $10 million for reimbursements under the program.

In the second half of 2008, Doña Ana County was awarded $651,386 from SWBPI. For 2009 and 2010, the county requested $1,685,302, which has been approved but not yet reimbursed.

The DOJ’s audit found several instances in which the county requested funds and was reimbursed for cases that did not meet SWBPI guidelines.

The largest discrepancy was in the case of pre-trial detention. The county received excess funds of $125,987 in 15 cases for which the number of pre-trial detention days claimed was greater than the actual number.

In 28 other instances, the county received excess funds for cases that were submitted for reimbursement for pre-trial detention costs but did not meet the guidelines. These cases represented excess funding of $61,570.

Additional improper reimbursements included claiming per diem rates in excess of the guidelines of the program and claiming funds for a case that was a probation violation rather than a federal case.

SWBPI has provided funding to dozens of state and county governments in California, Arizona
, New Mexico and Texas. In addition to the Doña Ana County audit, DOJ performed an audit of the New Mexico Department of Public Safety, in which improper reimbursements were also found.

In 2008, the Inspector General’s Office performed an audit of the SWBPI program itself and determined that the OJP was not adequately administering the program. At that time, OJP did not require supporting documentation of reimbursement requests and had no procedures to review applications for accuracy or monitor cases to ensure that they met eligibility guidelines.

Stewart Rabinowitz is President of Rabinowitz & Rabinowitz, P.C. Mr. Rabinowitz is Board Certified in Immigration and Nationality Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. To contact a Dallas immigration lawyer or Dallas immigration attorney visit Rabinowitzrabinowitz.com