Immigration Now 52 Percent of All Federal Criminal Prosecutions
Immigration remains the major focus of federal criminal enforcement efforts. The latest available data show that criminal prosecutions for illegal entry, illegal re-entry, and similar immigration violations made up 52 percent of all federal prosecutions in FY 2016. During the 12 months ending September 30, immigration prosecutions totaled 69,636. See Table 1.
This number compares with just 63,405 prosecutions for all other federal crimes—including drugs, weapons, fraud, and violations of the thousands of other criminal provisions that the federal government is responsible for enforcing.
These comparisons are based on case-by-case records obtained as a result of lengthy litigation brought by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) against the U.S. Department of Justice.
The number of immigration prosecutions in FY 2016 was down 6.9 percent from levels in FY 2015 when such prosecutions totaled 74,791. It was also down 15.3 percent from the levels of five years ago when they totaled 82,250. Prosecutions over the past year are still much higher than they were ten years ago. Overall, the data show that prosecutions of this type are up 85.6 percent from the level of 37,529 reported in 2006 and up 823 percent from the level of 7,543 reported in 1996.
The long term trend in immigration prosecutions for these matters going back to FY 1996 is shown more clearly in Figure 1. The vertical bars in Figure 1 represent the number of immigration prosecutions of this type recorded each fiscal year. Each presidential administration is distinguished by the color of the bars.Figure 1: Criminal Immigration Prosecutions over the last 20 years
Leading Investigative Agencies
The lead investigative agency for immigration prosecutions through September 2016 was "Homeland Security - Customs and Border Protection" accounting for 86.9 percent of prosecutions referred.
As shown in Figure 2, additional agencies with substantial numbers of immigration referrals were: Homeland Security - Immigration and Customs Enforcement (9.7%), "Homeland Security - Citizen and Immigration Services" (2.5%).
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 FY 2016.
Table 2: Top charges filed
Again among the top ten lead charges, the one showing the sharpest decline in prosecutions compared to one year ago—down 35 percent—was "False statement in application and use of passport " (Title 18 U.S.C Section 1542 ). This was the same statute that had the largest decrease—76%—when compared with five years ago.
Top Ranked Judicial Districts
Understandably, there is great variation in the number of immigration prosecutions in each of the nation's ninety-four federal judicial districts. The districts registering the largest number of prosecutions of this type during FY 2016 are shown in Table 3.
Table 3: Top 10 districts
A recent entry to the top 10 list was Northern District of New York (Syracuse), now ranked 10th. This district ranked 11th one year ago and 15th five years ago.
The federal judicial district which showed the greatest growth in immigration prosecutions compared to one year ago—15.9 percent—was Western District of Texas (San Antonio). This was the same district that had the largest increase—29.6%—when compared with five years ago.
In the last year, the judicial District Court recording the largest drop in immigration prosecutions—26.3 percent—was Arizona.
TRAC offers free monthly reports on program categories such as white collar crime, immigration, drugs, weapons and terrorism and on selected government agencies such as the IRS, FBI, ATF and DHS. For the latest information on prosecutions and convictions, go to http://trac.syr.edu/tracreports/bulletins/. In addition, subscribers to the TRACFed data service can generate custom reports for a specific agency, judicial district, program category, lead charge or judge via the TRAC Data Interpreter.