The U.S. has deported hundreds of thousands of foreign-born criminals in recent years. The Arizona Republic says a significant number have come back again, illegally, often to commit more crimes. There are no statistics on how many deported criminals re-enter the U.S. illegally, but arrests by Border Patrol agents in the Tucson region alone suggest the number is high. In fiscal year 2008, 16 percent of the 317,696 immigrants arrested by agents in Tucson, one of nine sectors on the U.S.-Mexican border, were charged with felony counts of re-entering illegally.
Crossing the border illegally is typically a misdemeanor.The illegal re-entry of people who have been deported, especially those with criminal histories, represents one of the most vexing and persistent problems in the government’s stepped-up effort to battle illegal immigration. The government doesn’t have the resources to prosecute all of them, and in the past most simply were deported again. To deter re-entry, the government is beefing up efforts to prosecute violent criminals who come back after they’ve been incarcerated and then deported, sentencing the most dangerous and egregious offenders to lengthy prison terms, rather than sending them back home. The goal is to prevent deported criminals who re-enter the U.S. from committing more crimes and to deter others from re-entering, said Joseph Koehler, an assistant U.S. attorney in Phoenix who supervises a unit that prosecutes these cases.