Percent Change from 5 years ago (Including Magistrate Court)
Percent Change from 5 years ago (Excluding Magistrate Court)
Table 1. Criminal Immigration Convictions
The latest available data from the Justice Department show that during December 2023 the government reported 1431 new immigration convictions.
According to the case-by-case information analyzed by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC), this number is down 3 percent over the previous month.
The comparisons of the number of defendants convicted for 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 2023 convictions of this type are compared with those of the same period in
the previous year, the number of convictions was down (-5.3%).
Convictions over the past year are still much lower than they were five years ago.
Overall, the data show that convictions of this type are down 81.9 percent from levels reported in 2018.
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 convictions is 31.8 percent instead of 81.9 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 Convictions
The decrease from the levels five years ago in immigration convictions for these matters is shown more clearly in Figure 1.
The vertical bars in Figure 1
represent the number of immigration convictions 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. Convictions by Investigative Agency
Virtually all federal criminal convictions for immigration offenses in December 2023
(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. See Figure 2.
Immigration Convictions in U.S. Magistrate Courts
Top Ranked Lead Charges
In December 2023, 199 defendants in immigration cases for these matters were convicted 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 49.2 percent of all magistrate convictions in December.
Other frequently prosecuted lead charges include: "08 USC 1325 - Entry of alien at improper time or place; etc." (43.7%), "08 USC 1324 - Bringing in and harboring certain aliens" (7%).
Immigration Convictions in U.S. District Courts
In December 2023, 1232 defendants in new cases
for these matters were charged in the U.S. District Courts. In addition during December there
were an additional 0 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 convictions of immigration matters
filed in U.S. District Court during December 2023.
"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 "Entry of alien at improper time or place; etc." under Title 8 U.S.C Section 1325.
"Entry of alien at improper time or place; etc." under Title 8 U.S.C Section 1325 was ranked 5 a year ago, while it was ranked 4 five years ago.
Among these top ten lead charges, the one showing the greatest
increase in convictions — up 500 percent — compared to one year ago was Title 18 U.S.C Section 751
that involves " Escape - Prisoners in custody ".
This was the same statute that had the largest increase — 500 % — when compared with five years ago.
Again among the top ten lead charges, the one showing the sharpest
decline in convictions compared to one year ago — down 80 percent — was
" Importation of controlled substances " (Title 21 U.S.C Section 952 ).
This was the same statute that had the largest decrease — 87.5 % — when compared with five years ago.
Top Ranked Judicial Districts
Understandably, there is great variation in the number of immigration convictions in each of the nation's ninety-four federal judicial districts.
The districts registering the
largest number of convictions of this type last month are shown in Table 3.
The District of Arizona — with 340 convictions — was the most active during December 2023.
The District of Arizona was ranked 3 a year ago, while it was ranked 4 for most frequent use five years ago.
The Southern District of Texas (Houston) ranked 2nd.
The Southern District of Texas (Houston) was ranked 2 a year ago, while it was ranked 2 for most frequent use five years ago.
Western District of Texas (San Antonio) is now ranking 3rd.
The Western District of Texas (San Antonio) was ranked 1 a year ago, while it was ranked 1 for most frequent use five years ago.
Recent entrants to the top 10 list were
Western District of Oklahoma (Oklahoma City), now ranked
, and Puerto Rico
In the same order, these districts ranked 11th and 13th one year ago and 40th and 15th five years ago.
The federal judicial district which showed the greatest growth
in immigration convictions compared to one year ago — 96.2 percent — was
Northern District of New York (Syracuse).
This was the same district that had the largest increase — 137.2 percent — when compared with five years ago.
In the last year, the judicial District Court recording the
largest drop in immigration convictions — 36.5 percent — was
New Mexico .
This was the same district that had the largest increase — 71.1 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 resulting in convictions of this type during December 2023 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 convictions.
Judges Jose Rolando Olvera, Jr. in the Southern District of Texas (Houston) and Kathleen Cardone in the Western District of Texas (San Antonio) ranked 1st with 48 convicted in immigration convictions.
Judge Cardone appeared in the top ten rankings one year (ranked 7) and five years ago (rank 6).
Judge Diana Saldana in the Southern District of Texas (Houston) ranked 3rd with 41 convicted in immigration convictions.