Digging for Statistical Nuggets in a Decade's Worth of Immigration Enforcement Data

By W.D. Reasoner on October 29, 2012

In July of this year, the U.S. Department of Justice's Bureau of Justice Statistics published an interesting paper entitled "Immigration Offenders in the Federal Justice System, 2010" by Mark Motivans, PhD.

Despite the reference to "2010" in the title, the paper actually documents federal immigration enforcement statistics for 2000-2010. Although, as might be expected, it is written in the somewhat dry style favored by bureaucracies and academia, the report makes for very interesting reading.

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For instance, right at the start we discover that "[a]pprehensions for immigration violations peaked at 1.8 million in 2000 but dropped to 516,992 in 2010 — the lowest level since 1972." (emphasis added)

Put another way, under the Obama administration, apprehensions have dropped to less than one third (approximately 29 percent) of their peak; they are, in fact, the lowest in 40 years, although the U.S. Border Patrol is many times over the size it was all through the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s. The administration would have us believe that this dismaying drop in apprehensions is because of the singularly effective nature of their border enforcement efforts, but there is little empirical evidence to sustain that belief.

But there are many other compelling nuggets to be found throughout this document. Speaking to the matter of alien criminals and recidivism, the report tells us that, "Of the 28,589 immigration defendants charged in U.S. district court in 2010, 66 percent had a prior felony arrest and 57 percent had a prior felony conviction. Sixty-five percent of illegal reentry defendants had a prior felony conviction."

Let's think about that for a second: of the nearly 29,000 defendants charged with federal crimes, two-thirds had been previously arrested for felonies, and well over half had been previously convicted of felonies. Similarly, of the previously deported aliens caught back inside the United States and charged with federal crimes, two-thirds had prior felony convictions. Those percentages are absolutely appalling.

And then there is this: "Fourteen percent of immigration offenders released from federal prison in 2007 were readmitted to federal prison within three years." Note that this is the number of individuals placed back into federal custody. Don't you wonder what that 14 percent re-incarceration rate would rise to if it included those who were subsequently placed into state prisons or county jails for other criminal offenses? Substantially higher, there can be no doubt.

To my way of thinking, the statistics in this report make a compelling case in favor of Secure Communities, a criminal alien identification and apprehension program that has been both poorly executed and badly explained under this administration by the Department of Homeland Security and its subordinate agency, Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Take the time to read the report. It speaks for itself.