The Obama administration prosecuted a record high number of immigrant defendants in the 2013 fiscal year, with 97,384 total cases filed. According to a new report by Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC), the number of prosecutions is up nearly six percent from the 2012 fiscal year and has increased 22.6 percent over the past five years.
Immigrants illegally entering the country for the first time made up the bulk of prosecutions at 55 percent in the 2013 fiscal year, ending on September 30. Immigrants illegally re-entering the country made up 38 percent of prosecutions, a figure that is up 76.2 percent from the number of re-entry prosecutions during the last year of President Bush’s administration. Illegal entry prosecutions were up 12 percent from 2012, while illegal reentry prosecutions in the same time period were up less than one percent. New Mexico officials led the country in prosecuting the most immigrants, followed by officials in the Western District of Texas. Illegal entry carries a petty misdemeanor charge while illegal reentry carries a felony charge and results in longer sentences.
Prosecuting immigrants for illegal reentry has disproportionately ensnared parents of U.S. citizen children since they are the ones most likely to try over and over to reenter the country because of strong family ties. In some Southern California districts, about “80 to 90 percent of reentry defendants had US citizen family.” But even as immigration officials are directed to avert prosecution of parents of U.S. citizen children through “prosecutorial discretion,” one in five deported immigrants are parents of citizen children (including at least 46,000 parents in 2011 alone).