Justice Department Prosecutes Most Immigration-Related Crimes in 25 Years

October 18, 2019 Updated: October 20, 2019

WASHINGTON—Department of Justice (DOJ) officials announced Friday that in Fiscal Year 2019 U.S. Attorneys across the country prosecuted the most immigration-related crime cases since such data first began being collected 25 years ago.

The 2019 tally reversed a decline in recent years in federal prosecutions of felony illegal re-entry defendants, misdemeanor improper entry defendants, and felony alien smuggling defendants, the department said in a statement.

A total of 25,426 felony illegal re-entry cases were brought in 2019, an 8.5 percent increase over the previous fiscal year’s 23,426. The previous high mark for such prosecutions came in 2010 with 24,676 cases.

On misdemeanor improper entry, a new annual high mark was set with 80,866 cases filed, an 18.5 percent increase far outdistancing the previous record set just last year with 68,470 cases.

Alien smuggling prosecutions were up 15.4 percent, to 4,297 cases. The 4,172 cases filed in 2006 was the previous record for alien smuggling prosecutions in a single fiscal year.

“These record-breaking numbers are a testament to the dedication of our U.S. Attorneys’ Offices throughout the nation, especially our Southwest border offices,” Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey A. Rosen said in the statement.

“In addition to the usual workload of each case the department prosecutes, this effort was made possible after our U.S. Attorneys’ Offices’ restored essential partnerships with national, state and local law-enforcement partners,” Rosen said.

The U.S. Attorneys’ immigration-related prosecutions data comes a week after DOJ officials announced that the department’s Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) completed more than 275,000 cases, the second highest annual total in the operation’s history and an increase in excess of 80,000 over 2018.

A major factor in the EOIR’s performance, according to DOJ, was the addition of 92 judges during the fiscal year, bringing the total number of judges working such cases to 442, the most ever.

On average, the judges who were on the job the full year completed 708 cases each. Another new class of judges are scheduled to join EOIR next month.

An EOIR official cautioned, however, that the office’s huge backlog of pending cases remains a problem.

“Our immigration courts are doing everything in their power to efficiently adjudicate immigration cases while respecting due process rights, but efficient adjudication alone cannot resolve the crisis at the border,” EOIR Director James McHenry said in announcing the new numbers October 10.

“While EOIR is doing an unprecedented job adjudicating cases fairly and expeditiously, the nearly one million case backlog will continue to grow unless Congress acts to address the crisis at the border,” McHenry said.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CPB) officials also announced Oct. 9 that September illegal border crossings were down significantly from the monthly peak in May.

“For the month of September, total CBP encounters (Border Patrol apprehensions and Field Operations inadmissible cases) along the Southwest border were 52,546,” CPB said.

“These enforcement actions show a decrease across all key demographics (such as unaccompanied children), although single adults represent the smallest decrease. While this is a decrease from August numbers, it remains higher than during the same time period of six of the last seven previous years.

Overall, CBP said, its officers “encountered 977,509 people attempting to cross our Southwest border, which is 72% higher than fiscal year 2014. Since the expansion of the Migrant Protection Protocol (MPP) and the [President Donald Trump’s] agreements with Central American governments, monthly enforcement actions have dropped an average of 22% per month.” The MPP requires immigrants to stay in Mexico while their asylum cases are pending.

Trump himself credited the positive news to the wall he promised during his 2016 campaign to build on the Southern border with Mexico. Trump told a massive rally of supporters in Dallas Thursday night that “we’re building that sucker right now and it’s having a tremendous effect already.”

Contact Mark Tapscott at mark.tapscott@epochtimes.nyc