Percent Change from 5 years ago (Including Magistrate Court)
Percent Change from 5 years ago (Excluding Magistrate Court)
Table 1. Criminal Immigration Prosecutions
The latest available data from the Justice Department show that during December 2020 the government reported 1808 new immigration prosecutions.
According to the case-by-case information analyzed by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC), this number is up 11.1 percent over the previous month.
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).
When monthly 2020 prosecutions of this type are compared with those of the same period in
the previous year, the number of filings was down (-79.7%).
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 71.9 percent from levels reported in 2015.
The substantial dip 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 decrease in
immigration prosecutions is 33.7 percent instead of 71.9 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.
Figure 1. Monthly Trends in Immigration Prosecutions
The decrease from the levels five years ago in immigration prosecutions for these matters 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. To view trends year-by-year rather than month-by-month, see TRAC's annual report series for a broader picture.
Figure 2. Prosecutions by Investigative Agency
Virtually all federal criminal prosecutions for immigration offenses in December 2020
(99 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. See Figure 2.
Immigration Prosecutions in U.S. Magistrate Courts
Top Ranked Lead Charges
In December 2020, 1302 defendants in immigration 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.
In the magistrate courts in December the most frequently cited lead charge was
Title 8 U.S.C Section 1326 involving "Reentry of deported alien". This was the lead charge
for 67.7 percent of all magistrate filings in December.
Other frequently prosecuted lead charges include: "08 USC 1324 - Bringing in and harboring certain aliens" (27.6%).
Immigration Prosecutions in U.S. District Courts
In December 2020, 506 defendants in new cases
for these matters were charged in the U.S. District Courts. In addition during December there
were an additional 1180 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 December.
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 December 2020.
"Reentry of deported alien" (Title 8 U.S.C Section 1326) was the most frequent recorded lead charge.
"Reentry of deported alien" (Title 8 U.S.C Section 1326) was ranked 1 a year ago, while it was ranked 1 five years ago.
Ranked 2nd in frequency was the lead charge "Bringing in and harboring certain aliens" under Title 8 U.S.C Section 1324.
"Bringing in and harboring certain aliens" under Title 8 U.S.C Section 1324 was ranked 2 a year ago, while it was ranked 2 five years ago.
Ranked 3rd was "Fraud and misuse of visas, permits, and other documents" under Title 18 U.S.C Section 1546.
"Fraud and misuse of visas, permits, and other documents" under Title 18 U.S.C Section 1546 was ranked 3 a year ago, while it was ranked 3 five years ago.
Among these top ten lead charges, the one showing the greatest
increase in prosecutions — up 18.2 percent — compared to one year ago was Title 18 U.S.C Section 1425
that involves " Procurement of citizenship or naturalization unlaw ".
Compared to five years ago, the largest increase — 113.3 percent — was registered for
prosecutions under " Fraud/false statements or entries generally " (Title 18 U.S.C Section 1001 ).
Again among the top ten lead charges, the one showing the sharpest
decline in prosecutions compared to one year ago — down 79.7 percent — was
" Entry of alien at improper time or place; etc. " (Title 8 U.S.C Section 1325 ).
Compared to five years ago, the most significant decline in prosecutions — 75.4 percent — was
for filings where the lead charge was " Misuse of passport " (Title 18 U.S.C Section 1544 ).
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.
The Southern District of Texas (Houston) — with 701 prosecutions — was the most active during December 2020.
The Southern District of Texas (Houston) was ranked 1 a year ago, while it was ranked 1 for most frequent use five years ago.
The Western District of Texas (San Antonio) ranked 2nd.
The Western District of Texas (San Antonio) was ranked 2 a year ago, while it was ranked 2 for most frequent use five years ago.
District of Arizona is now ranking 3rd.
The District of Arizona was ranked 5 a year ago, while it was ranked 4 for most frequent use five years ago.
Recent entrants to the top 10 list were
Northern District of Georgia (Atlanta), now ranked
, and Eastern District of Texas (Tyler)
In the same order, these districts ranked 18th and 25th one year ago and 17th and 32nd five years ago.
The federal judicial district which showed the greatest growth
in immigration prosecutions compared to one year ago — 20 percent — was
Northern District of Georgia (Atlanta).
Compared to five years ago, the district with the largest growth — 77.8 percent — was
Eastern District of Texas (Tyler).
In the last year, the judicial District Court recording the
largest drop in immigration prosecutions — 86.4 percent — was
New Mexico .
This was the same district that had the largest increase — 81.9 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 December 2020 are shown in Table 4.
All 10 of the "top ten" judges were in districts which were in the top ten with the largest number of immigration filings.
Judge Alia M. Moses in the Western District of Texas (San Antonio) ranked 1st with 190 defendants in immigration cases.
Judge Moses appeared in the top ten rankings one year (ranked 1) and five years ago (rank 2).
Judge Diana Saldana in the Southern District of Texas (Houston) ranked 2nd with 94 defendants in immigration cases.
Judge Saldana appeared in the top ten rankings one year (ranked 3) and five years ago (rank 8).
Judge Ricardo H. Hinojosa in the Southern District of Texas (Houston) ranked 3rd with 91 defendants in immigration cases.