Aliens in Federal Custody: The Latest Numbers

By Jessica M. Vaughan on August 15, 2017

The latest report on criminal aliens in the federal system from the Department of Justice reveals that there were approximately 42,000 non-citizens incarcerated in the Bureau of Prisons system as of June 31, 2017, representing 22 percent of the total federal prison population. The number has declined somewhat from the previous quarter, when DOJ counted nearly 45,500 non-citizens in custody as of March 25, 2017, making up 24 percent of the total population at that time. In addition, the U.S. Marshals are holding another 12,000 aliens awaiting trial (out of 50,000 total detainees in their custody).

The Bureau of Prisons is responsible for handling and housing all inmates who have violated federal law, as well as criminals who have committed felonies in Washington, D.C. The U.S. Marshal Service is the nation's oldest federal law enforcement agency and has a number of responsibilities, including fugitive apprehension, witness security, prisoner transportation, and judicial security. They also handle federal detainees before their trials and report on their immigration status.

Of the non-citizen BOP inmates, currently there are 19,749 individuals who have been issued final orders of removal and will be deported, which makes up 47 percent of the alien prisoner population. There are 21,121 individuals who are being investigated by ICE for possible removal from the country (50 percent of the alien inmates). A few of the alien inmates (1,157) have cases pending final judgement before an immigration judge. Out of all the 42,000 aliens in custody, only seven individuals have been granted relief from deportation and may remain in the United States.

Of the non-citizens in the custody of the Marshals, 82.1 percent (9,857) have been given final orders of removal and will be deported, while 2,047 individuals still await a judgment from an immigration judge. There are also 101 aliens who have been charged as removable, but have not been given final orders of removal.

The U.S. Sentencing Commission tracks the citizenship of federal offenders who are sentenced each year in federal court and their crimes (as distinct from the BOP statistics, which show the number of non-citizens who are incarcerated in the federal system on a given date). These annual statistics show that the majority of non-citizen federal offenders are convicted of immigration crimes (including re-entry after deportation, human smuggling and trafficking, possession of a firearm, and immigration fraud) while most of the rest are convicted of drug and fraud crimes.

The USSC statistics also show that, even factoring out those convicted of immigration offenses, non-citizens still make up a disproportionate number of federal offenders (20 percent of all non-immigration federal offenders vs 7 percent of the total US population). Further, non-citizens comprise a disproportionate number of those serving time for federal crimes such as murder, racketeering and extortion, money laundering, and drug crimes.

These statistics, released pursuant to an executive order of President Trump, confirm what every law enforcement agency in America already knows: Border security and immigration enforcement serve an important public safety function and cooperation between state, local, and federal law enforcement officers is essential to ensuring that deportable criminal aliens are removed from the country instead of released back into our communities. Further, these statistics undercut the argument of sanctuary policy proponents who argue that immigrants are more law-abiding than Americans and that they do not contribute to crime problems in our communities.