Federal criminal immigration prosecutions were down 12 percent in March compared with last year, while criminal prosecutions resulting from investigations by Customs and Border Protection fell 6 percent, reports Syracuse University’s TRAC, based on data from the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys. Until February 2011, ICE criminal prosecutions had been climbing, reaching a peak of 21,686 on an annual basis. For the 12 months ending in March 2012, there were only 19,149 new criminal prosecutions – some 12 percent fewer.
This fall-off in ICE criminal prosecutions was unexpected. There does not appear to have been any corresponding decrease in ICE deportation activity; indeed, agency announcements continue to promise that deportations should reach around 400,000 during fiscal year 2012. Border Patrol apprehensions along the southwest border have been falling at a much faster rate than the declines in criminal prosecutions. This means that for an individual caught illegally entering the country, the odds of criminal prosecution have actually moved sharply up, not down. During fiscal 2011, 20 percent of apprehensions resulted in a criminal prosecution — up from 16 percent in fiscal 2010 and only 2 percent as recently as fiscal 2006.