Special Advisory

Embargoed for Monday, July 26 (6:30 p.m. Sunday)

Surge in INS Enforcement Fuels
      Largest Growth in Overall Federal
            Prosecutions in Almost 30 Years

INS Now Ranks Second in Convictions

Six Fold Increase in the Length of INS Sentences

Syracuse, N.Y.--July 25--The doubling of prosecutions recommended by the Immigration and Naturalization Service(INS) has led to a major increase in the overall number of federal criminal court cases, according to data obtained by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse(TRAC).

  • Justice Department data show that the annual number of INS prosecutions jumped to 14,616 in 1998 compared to 7,335 in 1992.

  • This hike, particularly large in the last year, was a major factor in the sharpest annual rise in the overall number of federal prosecutions since 1971. All told there were 82,071 such actions in 1998,14% more than the previous year.

  • With this rise, the INS now ranks second in generating the largest number of federal convictions among all federal agencies, only slightly below the volume produced by the FBI.

For additional enforcement information -- about individual federal judicial districts and the nation as a whole -- go to There you will be offered two choices. One option is TRAC's new free public web site on the INS. The second option is TRACFED with complete 1992-1998 data about all federal enforcement activities, including INS, detailing the historic jump in federal prosecutions nationwide. TRACFED is a subscription service only available to news organizations. In addition to enforcement data, it offers quick access to demographic and economic information by country, state and federal judicial district, as well as federal staffing information. The INS information is embargoed for Monday, July 26, to give news organizations time to contact INS and Justice Department officials, judges and immigration rights groups for possible comment.

While the growth in INS prosecutions was unusually large, the increase in prison time given those convicted as a result of the agency's investigations was even larger. In 1998, the median sentence -- half got more, half got less -- was 12 months. In 1992, the median INS sentence was only two months.

The data also show that a much higher proportion of immigration referrals get the green light from federal prosecutors than any of the other Justice Department program categories. In fiscal year 1998, 93% of immigration referrals, almost all of them from the INS, were accepted for prosecution. That compared with 82% for drugs, 73% for weapons, 48% for official corruption, 43% for white collar crime and 5% for civil rights.

INS cases require far less time to prosecute. The 1998 median time from referral to disposition for the INS was 87 days. That compared with 483 days for the IRS, 310 for the ATF, 296 for the FBI and 272 for the DEA. Although many factors may be involved, it seems likely that individuals subject to INS investigations typically have fewer resources to contest their charges than those targeted by the IRS or the FBI.

The markedly tougher stance of INS enforcement in the last few years was not limited to criminal matters. Data provided TRAC by the INS indicated that from 1993 to 1998 there had been a fourfold increase in expelled aliens -- 172,312 "removals" in 1998 compared with 42,471 in 1993.

The sharp increase in all enforcement was the result of decisions by the Clinton Administration and Congress to vastly increase the size of the INS, to toughen selected immigration laws, and to push federal prosecutors to pay more attention to the subject. Data from the Office of Personnel Management show that there were 29,420 full-time employees in the INS in 1998. In 1992, there were only 17,368.

Reports from the General Accounting Office have said that so far there is no way to measure whether these changes have affected the overall number of illegal aliens entering the United States. As of 1996, the INS estimated there were about 5 million undocumented immigrants residing in the United States and that this population was increasing by about 275,000 each year.

TRAC is a non-partisan data gathering, research and data-distribution organization associated with Syracuse University. TRAC has been supported by the University, the Rockefeller Family Fund, the New York Times Company Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and many other organizations. TRAC's embargo on the information about the INS is intended to give news organizations adequate time to contact responsible government officials for their comments. For detailed information go to

Syracuse: 488 Newhouse II, Syracuse, NY 13244-2100 Tel. (315) 443-3563
Washington, D.C.: Suite 301, 666 Pennsylvania Avenue, S.E., 20003-4319 Tel. (202)544-8722

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