In large part, the current presidential administration has set the official tone and the message is clear: Immigration crimes are to be pursued aggressively by federal prosecutors. It probably surprises nobody that 2018 saw a significant increase in people being arrested and prosecuted for what would have once been considered minor immigration offenses (like entering the country illegally).
Here are some of the most relevant statistics about the issue:
- There were more people arrested for immigration offenses in 2018 than any other year in two decades.
- In 2017, only 58,031 people were charged with immigration offenses.
- In 2018, that number shot up to 108,667 arrests, which represents an 87% increase over the previous year.
- The percentage of people actually prosecuted on immigration charges also rose 66% in that same time period.
The increase in arrests and prosecutions far outpaces the increase in illegal border crossings during the same period.
In the past, immigration violations were often treated as a civil offense instead of a criminal one — but which one someone might face has always been largely up to prosecutors. When treated as a civil offense, immigration crimes usually result in deportation. When treated as a criminal matter, defendants can end up serving a lengthy period of time in a federal prison before being deported upon their release.
The change in prosecutorial tactics is deliberate in an effort to keep would-be immigrants from trying to enter the United States without authorization. Because of the federal government’s well-known “zero tolerance” policy toward illegal immigration, no one charged with an immigration offense should anticipate any kind of leniency these days.
If you are charged with an immigration offense, you should understand the seriousness of your situation and seek appropriate legal assistance.