DHS Referred Most Federal Criminal Prosecutions in October 2011

Number Latest Month 8,038
Percent Change from previous month 9.3
Percent Change from 1 year ago 0.8
Percent Change from 5 years ago (Including Magistrate Court) 119.5
Percent Change from 5 years ago (Excluding Magistrate Court) 36.4
Table 1: Criminal Prosecutions

The latest available data from the Justice Department show that during October 2011 the Department of Homeland Security's efforts to enforce immigration and customs laws accounted for 59 percent of all federal criminal prosecutions. The government reported 8,038 new prosecutions for these DHS matters as compared with a total of 13,628 from all sources.

According to the case-by-case information analyzed by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC), this number is up 9.3 percent over the previous month. These comparisons of the number of defendants charged 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 2011 DHS prosecutions are compared with those of the same period in the previous year, the number of filings was only slightly up (0.8 percent). Prosecutions over the past year are still much higher than they were five years ago. Overall, the data show that prosecutions of this type are up 119.5 percent from levels reported in 2006.

The substantial growth 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 increase in prosecutions is 36.4 percent instead of 119.5 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.

Plot of _FREQ_ by FYMONDT

Figure 1: Monthly trends in prosecutions

The increase from the levels five years ago in prosecutions for these matters is shown more clearly in Figure 1. The vertical bars in Figure 1 represent the number of 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.

Pie chart of progcatlabel

Figure 2: Specific types of prosecutions

Program Focus of DHS Prosecutions

Cases were classified by prosecutors into more specific types.

The largest number of prosecutions of these matters in October 2011 was for "Immigration", accounting for 86.7 percent of prosecutions. Prosecutions were also filed for "Drugs-Drug Trafficking" (7.8 percent). See Figure 2.

Top Ranked Lead Charges in U.S. Magistrate Courts

In October 2011, 6,672 defendants in 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.

Illegal entry and illegal reentry filings dominated dockets in federal magistrate court. Fully 50 percent of all magistrate filings in October were for illegal entry under Title 8 U.S.C Section 1325, a petty offense. However, the more serious charge of illegal reentry under 8 U.S.C. 1326 was the second most frequent charge accounting for 34.6 percent of all magistrate court filings during October.

Top Ranked Lead Charges in U.S. District Courts

In October 2011, 1,366 defendants in new cases for DHS referrals were charged in the U.S. District Courts. In addition during October there were an additional 1,874 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 October.

Table 2 shows the top lead charges recorded in the prosecutions of immigration and customs matters filed in U.S. District Court during October 2011 referred by the Department of Homeland Security.

Lead Charge Count Rank 1yr ago 5yrs ago  
08 USC 1326 - Reentry of deported alien 1,828 1 1 1 More
21 USC 841 - Drug Abuse Prevention & Control-Prohibited acts A 255 2 3 3 More
21 USC 846 - Attempt and conspiracy 218 3 7 7 More
08 USC 1324 - Bringing in and harboring certain aliens 210 4 2 2 More
21 USC 952 - Importation of controlled substances 187 5 4 4 More
18 USC 1546 - Fraud and misuse of visas, permits, and other documents 105 6 5 5 More
08 USC 1325 - Entry of alien at improper time or place; etc. 67 7 6 6 More
18 USC 2252 - Material involving sexual exploitation of minors 33 8 9 9 More
18 USC 1544 - Misuse of passport 27 9 12 46 More
18 USC 911 - False personification - Citizen of the US 26 10 8 10 More
Table 2: Top charges filed

  • "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 "Drug Abuse Prevention & Control-Prohibited acts A" under Title 21 U.S.C Section 841. "Drug Abuse Prevention & Control-Prohibited acts A" under Title 21 U.S.C Section 841 was ranked 3 a year ago, while it was ranked 3 five years ago.

  • Ranked 3rd was "Attempt and conspiracy" under Title 21 U.S.C Section 846. "Attempt and conspiracy" under Title 21 U.S.C Section 846 was ranked 7 a year ago, while it was ranked 7 five years ago.

Among these top ten lead charges, the one showing the greatest increase in prosecutions — up 233.1 percent — compared to one year ago was Title 21 U.S.C Section 846 that involves "Attempt and conspiracy". Compared to five years ago, the largest increase — 1780 percent — was registered for prosecutions under "Misuse of passport" (Title 18 U.S.C Section 1544 ).

Again among the top ten lead charges, the one showing the sharpest decline in prosecutions compared to one year ago — down 30.6 percent — was Entry of alien at improper time or place; etc. (Title 8 U.S.C Section 1325 ). This was the same statute that had the largest decrease — 26.2 percent — when compared with five years ago.

Top Ranked Judicial Districts

In October 2011 the Justice Department said the government brought 127 prosecutions for every million people in the United States.

Understandably, there is great variation in the per capita number of prosecutions that are filed in each of the nation's ninety-four federal judicial districts.

The districts registering the largest number of prosecutions per capita for these matters last month are shown in Table 3.

Judicial District Percapita Count Rank 1yr ago 5yrs ago  
Cal, S 20,232 543 1 4 3 More
Arizona 12,608 693 2 3 4 More
Texas, W 11,156 570 3 2 2 More
N Mexico 9,315 156 4 5 5 More
Texas, S 6,264 439 5 1 1 More
S Dakota 2,363 16 6 47 65 More
N Dakota 2,226 12 7 36 40 More
Iowa, N 1,472 16 8 30 26 More
Nebraska 1,469 22 9 29 46 More
Fla, S 972 54 10 7 6 More
Table 3: Top 10 districts (per ten million people)

  • Relative to its population size, the Southern District of California (San Diego) — with 2,023 prosecutions per million as compared with 127 prosecutions in the United States-was the most active during October 2011. This marked a significant rise in its rankings for Southern California on DHS referred prosecutions since that district had ranked only fourth a year ago.

  • Arizona actually saw the most prosecutions filed during October than any district. Relative to its population size, however, the district ranked second. This federal judicial district also showed the greatest growth in the rate of prosecutions compared to one year ago — 31.8 percent. The District of Arizona was ranked third a year ago, while it was ranked fourth for DHS prosecutions relative to its population five years ago.

  • The Western District of Texas (San Antonio) had the second highest number of DHS prosecutions filed during October. Relative to its population size, it ranked third after Arizona and the Southern District of California. The district has moved down in its rankings from a year ago when it was ranked second.

  • The Southern District of Texas (Houston) had the fourth highest number of DHS prosecutions during October. Relative to population, however, it ranked after New Mexico and was in last place among the five federal districts along the southwest border in its rate of DHS prosecutions during October. It also experienced the largest drop of any district in the country in the rate of DHS prosecutions, down 29 percent over the past year.

Recent entrants to the top 10 list were Nebraska, now ranked 9th, and Northern District of Iowa (Cedar Rapids) at 8th. In the same order, these districts ranked 29th and 30th one year ago and 46th and 26th five years ago.