Hot Docs: Immigration Crackdown Boosts Crime Stats for Hispanics, a Veterinarian Shortage

Today's selection of timely reports.

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Hispanics, Immigrants, and Jail Sentences: Because of the illegal immigration crackdown, 40 percent of those sentenced in federal court in 2007 were Latinos, an analysis of United States Sentencing Commission data has shown. The analysis, by the Pew Hispanic Center, says that the number is more than three times greater than Latinos' 13 percent share of the U.S. adult population. In 1991 Latinos made up just 24 percent of those sentenced in federal court. Since 1991, crimes that Latinos were sentenced for have flipped places. In 1991, 60 percent of Latinos were sentenced for drug crimes and 20 percent for immigration crimes. In 2007, 48 percent were sentenced for immigration crimes and 37 percent for drugs. The study also finds that between 1991 and 2007, the number of Latinos sentenced in federal court jumped 270 percent, and of those sentenced in 2007, 72 percent did not hold U.S. citizenship.

Veterinarian Shortage Puts Humans, Food Supply at Risk: The Government Accountability Office reports that a growing shortage of veterinarians, particularly those working in rural areas and caring for food animals, has put the food supply at risk and "could hinder efforts to protect humans from zoonotic diseases." The report, "Veterinarian Workforce: Actions Are Needed to Ensure Sufficient Capacity for Protecting Public and Animal Health," finds that not only is there a "growing national shortage of veterinarians" but that 27 percent of the veterinarians in five federal agencies examined, including the Food and Drug Administration, are eligible to retire in the next three years. An examination of zoonotic disease outbreaks—those that spread between animals and humans—in California, Colorado, Michigan, and Wisconsin finds veterinarian shortages. "To control a demanding outbreak of exotic Newcastle disease in poultry in California in 2003, (officials) had to borrow more than 1,000 veterinarians from federal and state agencies around the country, as well as the private sector. This reduced the number of veterinarians available to respond to outbreaks of bovine tuberculosis in Michigan, monkeypox in Wisconsin, and West Nile virus in Colorado."

Indonesians Think Country Is Headed in Right Direction: While most Indonesians believe that their country is headed in the right direction, few are satisfied with the performance of their national and local legislatures, according to a survey conducted for the International Republican Institute. The survey by the Washington-based group dedicated to advancing democracy was conducted January 12-22 and polled 2,189 adult men and women from across Indonesia. It finds that 64 percent believe the country is headed in the right direction but only one third expressed satisfaction with the legislatures. Other results show that a majority of voters would favor political party reforms such as disclosure of finances, 87 percent say they will vote in legislative elections in April, and high prices of necessities are viewed as the most important issue, followed by poverty, unemployment, and education.

Embassy Construction: While the State Department is in the midst of an overseas building boom, contractors available to construct new embassies and other facilities has shrunk because of rising construction costs and dwindling profits. The Government Accountability Office, in a report entitled "Embassy Construction: Additional Actions Are Needed to Address Contractor Participation," found that in order to provide safer and more secure facilities following the 1998 embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania that killed 220 people, State has built 64 new embassies and other compounds since 1999, has 31 ongoing projects, and is planning at least 90 more construction projects. However, from 2006 to 2008, the annual average number of prequalifying firms per project dropped 69 percent, and in the same time period, there was a 38 percent decline in the average number of bids per project. The report notes that from 2006 to 2008, five firms "which, combined built a total of 27 embassies, consulates, and annexes, reported they would no longer bid for ... projects, citing as reasons insufficient profits and State's overall management of the program."