DHS Referred Most Federal Criminal Prosecutions in October 2011
The latest available data from the Justice Department show that during October 2011 the Department of Homeland Security's efforts to enforce immigration and customs laws accounted for 59 percent of all federal criminal prosecutions. The government reported 8,038 new prosecutions for these DHS matters as compared with a total of 13,628 from all sources.
According to the case-by-case information analyzed by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC), this number is up 9.3 percent over the previous month. These comparisons of the number of defendants charged are based on case-by-case information obtained by TRAC under the Freedom of Information Act from the Executive Office for United States Attorneys (see Table 1).
When monthly 2011 DHS prosecutions are compared with those of the same period in the previous year, the number of filings was only slightly up (0.8 percent). Prosecutions over the past year are still much higher than they were five years ago. Overall, the data show that prosecutions of this type are up 119.5 percent from levels reported in 2006.
The substantial growth in these cases is partly related to increases in the matters filed in U.S. Magistrate Courts. If magistrate cases are excluded and only Federal District Court cases are counted, the overall increase in prosecutions is 36.4 percent instead of 119.5 percent. The evidence suggests that part of the difference may be the result of improvements in the recording of the magistrate cases by the Justice Department.
The increase from the levels five years ago in prosecutions for these matters is shown more clearly in Figure 1. The vertical bars in Figure 1 represent the number of prosecutions of this type recorded on a month-to-month basis. Where a prosecution was initially filed in U.S. Magistrate Court and then transferred to the U.S. District Court, the magistrate filing date was used since this provides an earlier indicator of actual trends. The superimposed line on the bars plots the six-month moving average so that natural fluctuations are smoothed out. The one and five-year rates of change in Table 1 and in the sections that follow are all based upon this six-month moving average.
Program Focus of DHS Prosecutions
Cases were classified by prosecutors into more specific types.
The largest number of prosecutions of these matters in October 2011 was for "Immigration", accounting for 86.7 percent of prosecutions. Prosecutions were also filed for "Drugs-Drug Trafficking" (7.8 percent). See Figure 2.
Top Ranked Lead Charges in U.S. Magistrate Courts
In October 2011, 6,672 defendants in cases for these matters were filed in U.S. Magistrate Courts. These courts handle less serious misdemeanor cases, including what are called "petty offenses." In addition, complaints are sometimes filed in the magistrate courts before an indictment or information is entered. In these cases, the matter starts in the magistrate courts and later moves to the district court where subsequent proceedings take place.
Illegal entry and illegal reentry filings dominated dockets in federal magistrate court. Fully 50 percent of all magistrate filings in October were for illegal entry under Title 8 U.S.C Section 1325, a petty offense. However, the more serious charge of illegal reentry under 8 U.S.C. 1326 was the second most frequent charge accounting for 34.6 percent of all magistrate court filings during October.
Top Ranked Lead Charges in U.S. District Courts
In October 2011, 1,366 defendants in new cases for DHS referrals were charged in the U.S. District Courts. In addition during October there were an additional 1,874 defendants whose cases moved from the magistrate courts to the U.S. district courts after an indictment or information was filed. The sections which follow cover both sets of cases and therefore cover all matters filed in district court during October.
Table 2 shows the top lead charges recorded in the prosecutions of immigration and customs matters filed in U.S. District Court during October 2011 referred by the Department of Homeland Security.
Table 2: Top charges filed
Among these top ten lead charges, the one showing the greatest increase in prosecutions — up 233.1 percent — compared to one year ago was Title 21 U.S.C Section 846 that involves "Attempt and conspiracy". Compared to five years ago, the largest increase — 1780 percent — was registered for prosecutions under "Misuse of passport" (Title 18 U.S.C Section 1544 ).
Again among the top ten lead charges, the one showing the sharpest decline in prosecutions compared to one year ago — down 30.6 percent — was Entry of alien at improper time or place; etc. (Title 8 U.S.C Section 1325 ). This was the same statute that had the largest decrease — 26.2 percent — when compared with five years ago.
Top Ranked Judicial Districts
In October 2011 the Justice Department said the government brought 127 prosecutions for every million people in the United States.
Understandably, there is great variation in the per capita number of prosecutions that are filed in each of the nation's ninety-four federal judicial districts.
The districts registering the largest number of prosecutions per capita for these matters last month are shown in Table 3.
Table 3: Top 10 districts (per ten million people)
Recent entrants to the top 10 list were Nebraska, now ranked 9th, and Northern District of Iowa (Cedar Rapids) at 8th. In the same order, these districts ranked 29th and 30th one year ago and 46th and 26th five years ago.