By Jason Buch
Published 12:00 am, Saturday, June 10, 2017
After the defendants in orange jumpsuits filed out of U.S. Magistrate Judge Diana Song Quiroga’s courtroom, federal marshals led in a line of men and women dressed in street clothes and shuffling in shackles.
As happens almost every morning in federal magistrate courts along the Southwest border, Song Quiroga interrupted preliminary hearings for felony defendants, most of them charged with some sort of smuggling offense, and turned her attention to the morning misdemeanor docket.
All of the 37 defendants from Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala and the Dominican Republic in the court were charged with illegally entering the U.S., a “petty offense” in federal court that carries a maximum sentence of 180 days in jail. Almost all of them had previously been detained by the Border Patrol. Many of them had enough of a criminal history that they were eligible for felony prosecution under guidelines handed down in April by Attorney General Jeff Sessions.