DHS Immigration Enforcement - Latest Figures

DHS Immigration Enforcement

A year and a half after the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) formally came into existence in March of 2003, the latest available personnel data show the nation’s third largest cabinet level agency is still in flux.

In December of 2003, for example, border patrol agents and immigration inspectors were transferred out of DHS’s Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and into the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

With the addition of the 10,887 border patrol agents and 6,920 immigration inspectors, the number of employees in the CBP grew to a total of 40,933.

These shifts made the CBP the second largest agency within the Department of Homeland Security, dwarfed only by the 59,823 employees working in the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), the agency responsible for airport security.

While ICE (Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement) lost much of its immigration enforcement staff to CBP, it retained immigration criminal investigators within its ranks. It also gained customs criminal investigators who transferred into ICE from CBP.

The net result of these staffing shifts was that ICE dramatically shrunk in size. The overall number of ICE employees dropped to 16,962 in December of 2003, less than half of its total of 39,808 the previous September.

The latest re-shuffling also means that immigration enforcement -- once the province of a single agency (Immigration and Naturalization Service) -- is now divided between two major DHS agencies -- ICE and CBP. See DHS organizational chart.

In another area, referrals for prosecutions by all immigration criminal investigators jumped in December 2003 to 3,186, an all time high. A major factor behind this increase was a spurt of cases in the Southern District of Texas (Houston) whose referrals more than tripled from the November count.

Immigration referrals continue to be concentrated in the five districts along with southwest border of Mexico. In December of 2003, for example, 2,583 out of the 3,186 referrals -- 81 percent of the total -- originated in these five districts. By contrast, during FY 2001, only 62 percent of the immigration referrals were concentrated in these same districts.

With this jump in referrals, however, the median prison time imposed on those who were convicted plummeted. In December, the median or typical sentence -- half got more, half got less -- was only 3 months. This sentence was sharply down from a level of about 16 months that had held roughly steady during most of the past year.

The personnel and staffing figures described here were derived from TRAC's latest updates from the government databases obtained by TRAC under the FOIA. They can be directly queried for more detailed statistics as well as case-by-case and employee-by-employee information on TRACFED.

Report Date: July 23, 2004
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