Convictions for Transporting or Harboring Undocumented Immigrants Jump Under Biden
(13 Jul 2023) The latest available data from the Justice Department show that during the first eight months of FY 2023 the government reported a record 3,894 new convictions for bringing in or harboring undocumented immigrants (8 U.S.C. 1324). The average prison sentence under this lead charge was 11 months, while the median sentence — half received longer sentences while half received shorter — was 6 months.

Monthly convictions with this lead charge leaped to an all-time high of 708 in January 2023, far outpacing the previous high of 476 in January 2020 under former President Trump. If this same pace continues, the recorded convictions will be 5,841 for this fiscal year, which continues through the end of September. This would represent an increase of 37 percent over FY 2022 when the number of convictions totaled 4,273.

The comparisons of the number of defendants convicted for these offenses were compiled based on case-by-case data obtained after successful court litigation under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC).

Convictions under 8 U.S.C. 1324 aren't limited to smuggling undocumented immigrants across the U.S. border. In comparison to this charge, almost three times the number of convictions since FY 2018 were under a subsection of 1324 which makes it illegal to transport or attempt to transport such individuals within the U.S. Of course, the division between smuggling immigrants across the border and transporting undocumented immigrants within the U.S. is not clear cut since smuggling can involve both border crossing and transport away from the border.

However, nearly a thousand convictions also occurred for defendants who simply concealed undocumented immigrants or helped them evade authorities. Convictions for encouraging or inducing an undocumented immigrant to come to, enter, or reside in the U.S. remain relatively rare.

Among the 90 federal judicial districts within the 50 states, 67 districts plus the District of Columbia recorded at least one conviction with this as the lead charge since FY 2017. However, just 27 districts recorded at least 10 convictions, and just seven districts recorded 100 or more convictions during this period. Thus, despite the widespread distribution of undocumented immigrants across the nation, such convictions outside border and coastal districts are still relatively rare.

Arizona had the highest rate of convictions relative to its population so far during FY 2023. However, last year in FY 2022 New Mexico had the highest rate relative to its population size, while the highest relative rate was found in the Southern District of California (San Diego) five years as well as twenty years ago.

Three of the remaining top ten judicial districts this year are along the country's northern border with Canada. These three are Vermont ranked sixth this year, the Northern District of New York (Syracuse) ranked seventh, and Montana ranked tenth. Two coastal districts make up the remaining top ten. Relative to population size, the Southern District of Mississippi (Jackson) ranked eighth and the Southern District of Florida (Miami) ranked ninth.

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