After peaking at 1.8 million cases in 2000, U.S. nationwide apprehensions for violations of immigration laws decreased by nearly 29% to 516,992 cases in 2010, while actual arrests tripled, according to a new report from the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS).
Note that apprehensions are different from actual arrests. Apprehensions occur when foreign nationals in the U.S. illegally are detained by law enforcement agencies, while arrests occur when an apprehended individual is formally charged with a violation of federal immigration laws by the U.S. Marshals Service.
According to the BJS report, Immigration Offenders in the Federal Justice System, 2010, while the number of immigration-related apprehensions went down during the ten-year period from 2000 to 2010, the rate of actual arrests increased.
Between 2000 and 2010, arrests booked by the U.S. Marshals Service for federal immigration offenses tripled, from 25,205 to 82,438 arrests. In 2000, only 2 in every 100 immigration apprehensions resulted in an arrest. By 2010, the number had grown to 16 arrests per 100 apprehensions.
The numbers cited by BJS for both apprehensions and arrests represent events, not individuals, because some individuals may be apprehended or arrested more than once.
As you might have guessed, most apprehensions (87%) and arrests (90%) for immigration violations in 2010 occurred along the Southwest border between the U.S. and Mexico. Most apprehensions and arrests occurred in Southern California, Arizona, New Mexico and Western and Southern Texas.
The majority (83%) of persons apprehended by the Department of Homeland Security in 2010 on suspicion of immigration violations were citizens of Mexico. An increasing share of persons apprehended came from countries in Central America, reaching 12% in 2010, up from three percent in 2002.
About two-thirds of immigration violators arrested for a federal immigration offense in 2010 were charged with a misdemeanor for illegal entry and served up to 180 days in jail. The remaining third were charged with felonies or more serious misdemeanors.
The most common (81%) immigration violation charge in 2010 was illegal reentry - illegally returning to the U.S. after having been previously removed. Immigration violations with the highest prosecution rate in 2010 included smuggling (80%), misuse of visas (79%) and illegal reentry (67%).
Two-thirds (66%) of the immigration violators charged in U.S. district courts in 2010 had previously been arrested for a felony and more than half (57%) had a prior felony conviction.