Criminal Immigration Prosecutions Fall 22 Percent
The latest available data from the Justice Department show that during November 2015 the government reported 4,861 new immigration prosecutions. According to the case-by-case information analyzed by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC), this number is down 13.2 percent over the previous month.
When monthly 2015 prosecutions of this type are compared with those of the same period in the previous year, the number of filings was down 22.3 percent.
Prosecutions over the past year are still much lower than they were five years ago. Overall, the data show that prosecutions of this type are down 15.1 percent from levels reported in 2010.
The comparisons of the number of defendants charged with immigration-related offenses 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).
The decrease from the levels five years ago in immigration prosecutions is shown more clearly in Figure 1. The vertical bars in Figure 1 represent the number of immigration 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.
Virtually all federal criminal prosecutions for immigration offenses in November 2015 — 100 percent — were referred by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The two lead investigative agencies in DHS are Customs and Border Protection (CBP) whose border patrol agencies guard the county's borders, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), responsible for conducting most immigration criminal investigations under the immigration laws.
Immigration Prosecutions in U.S. Magistrate Courts
Top Ranked Lead Charges
In November 2015, 4195 defendants in immigration cases 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.
In the magistrate courts in November the most frequently cited lead charge was Title 8 U.S.C Section 1325 involving "Entry of alien at improper time or place; etc." This was the lead charge for 61.1 percent of all magistrate filings in November.
The other frequently prosecuted lead charge was "08 USC 1326 - Reentry of deported alien," accounting for 33.3 percent of magistrate filings.
Immigration Prosecutions in U.S. District Courts
In November 2015, 666 defendants in new cases for these matters were charged in the U.S. District Courts. In addition during November there were an additional 950 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 November.
Top Ranked Lead Charges
Table 2 shows the top lead charges recorded in the prosecutions of immigration matters filed in U.S. District Court during November 2015.
Table 2. Top Charges Filed
Among these top ten lead charges, the one showing the greatest increase in prosecutions — up 60 percent — compared to one year ago was Title 18 U.S.C Section 371 that involves "Conspiracy to commit offense or to defraud US". Compared to five years ago, the largest increase — 150 percent — was registered for prosecutions under "Fed Old Age, Survivors & Disab Insur -Penalties" (Title 42 U.S.C Section 408).
Again among the top ten lead charges, the one showing the sharpest decline in prosecutions compared to one year ago — down 34.1 percent — was "False statement in application and use of passport" (Title 18 U.S.C Section 1542). Compared to five years ago, the most significant decline in prosecutions — 71.4 percent — was for filings where the lead charge was "Conspiracy to commit offense or to defraud US" (Title 18 U.S.C Section 371).
Top Ranked Judicial Districts
Understandably, there is great variation in the number of immigration prosecutions that are filed in each of the nation's ninety-four federal judicial districts.
The districts registering the largest number of prosecutions of this type last month are shown in Table 3.
Recent entrants to the top 10 list were Colorado, now ranked 9th , and Puerto Rico at 9th In the same order, these districts ranked 16th and 23rd one year ago and 18th and 30th five years ago.
The federal judicial district which showed the greatest growth in immigration prosecutions compared to one year ago — 32.6 percent — was Puerto Rico . Compared to five years ago, the district with the largest growth — 58.3 percent — was New Mexico .
In the last year, the judicial District Court recording the largest drop in immigration prosecutions — 30.5 percent — was Southern District of California (San Diego). This was the same district that had the largest increase — 55.5 percent — when compared with five years ago.
Top Ranked District Judges
At any one time, there are about 680 federal District Court judges working in the United States. The judges recorded with the largest number of new immigration crime cases of this type during November 2015 are shown in Table 4.
Table 4. Top Ten Judges
All 10 of the "top ten" judges were in districts which were in the top ten with the largest number of immigration filings.