Immigration violations have become the number one most common source of federal prosecutions in this country, surging well ahead of the second-most prominent contender: Drug crimes.

According to the U.S. Sentencing Commission’s annual report, immigration crimes surged 22.9% in 2018. All told, there were 29,354 people prosecuted for immigration crimes in 2019, a marked increase over the 23,883 that were sentenced in 2018. Altogether, immigration offenses count for 38.4% of all federal prosecutions. Drug crimes trailed a distant second, accounting for only 26.6% of offenses. (Firearms offenses were an even-more distant third, accounting for 11.1% of prosecutions.)

Is this worrisome? If you’re an immigrant who isn’t legally in this country, it’s definitely a cause for concern. The political atmosphere in the United States has been largely hostile toward many immigrants (especially those without the proper papers) for a while — but this is a definitive sign that federal prosecutions of immigrants have been increasing.

The potential penalties for immigration offenses are also fairly steep — and judges are not particularly inclined to be lenient. Among those who are convicted — almost all of whom are undocumented immigrants — more than 95% were sentenced to 10 months in jail.

Regardless of your immigration status, you still have certain rights — and you’re wise to commit them to memory:

  • You have the right to remain silent (but not to lie) when questioned by authorities.
  • You have the right to deny the consent for a search of your person, car or home and demand that the authorities get a warrant before they proceed.

If you’re arrested on an immigration offense, make sure that you take immediate steps to assert your rights and speak to a defense attorney.

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