Immigration offenders in the federal justice system

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Immigration enforcement has changed dramatically over the past two decades as the United States adjusts to new migration patterns and security threats, reallocates resources and increases the number of border patrol officers. Over all, there has been a decline in apprehension of immigrant offenders, an increase in suspects booked by the U.S. Marshals Service and a swell in the number of offenders referred to a United States attorney. Moreover, varying political factors continue to influence levels of enforcement at local levels.

In a detailed 2012 report, “Immigration Offenders in the Federal Justice System,” the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics combined data from seven federal agencies to highlight trends in immigration enforcement in 2010 and earlier.

Among the study’s key findings are:

  • Apprehensions for immigration violations dropped to 516,992, the lowest the figure has been since 1972. Arrests of immigration offenders peaked in 2000 with 1.8 million.
  • “The share of immigration offenders admitted to the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) increased from 19% of all offenders admitted in 2000 to 29% in 2010. The share of immigration offenders admitted to federal supervision was 3% in 2000 and increased to 8% of offenders admitted in 2010.”
  • The number of suspects booked by the U.S. Marshals Service for a federal immigration offense has increased dramatically in recent years: It was 8,777 in 1994, compared with 82,436 in 2010. The most common immigration offenses were illegal reentry (81%), alien smuggling (12%), misuse of visas (6%) and illegal entry (1%).
  • The majority of immigration-related arrests were of people from Mexico (83%), followed by Central America (12%). Ninety-percent were male, and 41% of those arrested were between ages 25 and 34; 26% were under age 25 and 9% were age 45 or older.
  • Suspects referred to a U.S. attorney for an immigration offense increased from 7,122 in 1992 to 84,606 in 2010.
  • Eighty-one percent of those convicted in a U.S. district court for an immigration offense received a prison sentence in 2010. The average term imposed was 15 months. In 2010, nearly 30 percent of federal prisoners were there on immigration-related violations. Of those released from prison in 2007, 14% returned within three years.
  • “The criminal history profile of immigration offenders charged in U.S. district court reflected relatively serious prior criminal records. In 2010, 66% of immigration offenders charged in U.S. district court had a prior felony arrest and 57% had a prior felony conviction. During 2010, among immigration offenders with a prior felony conviction, 21% had a prior felony drug conviction and 17% had a prior felony violent conviction.”
  • The number of border patrol officers nearly doubled between 2004 and 2010, increasing from 10,819 to 20,558.

The 44-page report also includes figures on forced removal of undocumented immigrants versus voluntary return; areas of apprehension and human trafficking.

Tags: crime, Latino, Hispanic

Last updated: December 5, 2012


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Citation: Motivans, Mark. “Immigration Offenders in the Federal Justice System, 2010,” US Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, July 2012.