Federal prosecutors in San Diego have issued new guidelines for prosecuting illegal aliens and smugglers apprehended along the California border, and rank-and-file Border Patrol agents are infuriated.

Faced with a deluge of illegal crossers and the burden prosecuting them places on the courts, the U.S. Attorney’s office has drawn up new rules that dramatically limit who will be prosecuted and who will merely be sent back to Mexico.

“(The) number of alien smuggling cases presented to our office has increased significantly over the last year,” Steven Peak, an assistant U.S. attorney, wrote Paul Blocker Jr., the Border Patrol’s acting San Diego sector chief. “Alien smuggling cases are manpower-intensive and often difficult to prosecute successfully.”

Many of the illegal immigrants with criminal histories his office deals with, wrote Peak, had committed their earlier crimes outside of Southern California or had not been arrested in 10 or more years.

The new guidelines, Peak has informed the Border Patrol, will “scrutinize more closely the immigration and criminal history” of suspects.

But unhappy Border Patrol agents have told San Diego’s KGTV News the increased scrutiny means only those “convicted of murder, manslaughter, kidnapping, rape or multiple felonies in the past five years. If they have committed a crime longer than seven years ago, it will not be considered – that includes crimes like child pornography, weapons crimes or terrorism.”

The new policy will mean releasing potentially violent illegal immigrants back into Mexico, say the agents who note “we will be facing them the next night.”

Immigrant smugglers will only be prosecuted if they “intentionally or recklessly created a substantial risk of death or serious bodily injury,” according to Peak.

Border Patrol spokesman, Sean Isham, said the agency was working closely with the Justice Department and emphasizes that the new guidelines are still only proposals.

But Shawn Moran, a representative of the union for San Diego area Border Patrol agents, sees it differently. “We’re not happy about it,” he said. “It pretty much just raises the bar on the threshold for prosecution.”

Related stories:

America’s most urgent crisis

Authorities won’t enforce immigration laws

U.S. to exempt Mexicans from photos, fingerprinting

Related offers:

Illegals: The Imminent Threat Posed by Our Unsecured U.S.-Mexico Border

Note: Read our discussion guidelines before commenting.