Prosecution Numbers Increase Along Southwest Border: Report

New data shows that prosecutions resulting from U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CPB) apprehensions along the southwest border increased this spring.

According to TRAC Immigration, records for May 2018 show that a total of 9,216 new federal prosecutions were brought as a result of referrals from CBP in the five federal judicial districts along the southwest border. That was an 11.1 percent increase from the 8,298 comparable prosecutions recorded during April–and a 44.7 percent increase over March figures.

The upward trend follows U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ April 6, 2018 announcement of a zero-tolerance policy for those who “illegally cross over our border.”

While the policy has resulted in increased criminal prosecutions, zero-tolerance does not accurately describe the reality on the ground, said TRAC (Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse), a data research organization based at Syracuse University. In May 2018, a generous estimate indicates criminal prosecutions were used in only about one-third of total Border Patrol apprehensions.

CBP reported that the Border Patrol apprehended 40,338 individuals along the southwest border in May who were trying to illegally enter the country.

Family separations, the Administration stated, was the inevitable consequence of prosecuting everyone caught illegally entering this country.

However, since less than a third of adults apprehended illegally crossing the border were actually referred for prosecution, the stated justification does not explain why the Trump administration chose to prosecute parents with children over prosecuting adults without children who were apprehended in even larger numbers, said TRAC. The administration has not explained its rationale.

But as a practical matter the announced zero-tolerance policy didn’t eliminate prosecutorial discretion.

Criminal prosecution along the southwest border, photo courtesy of TRAC

The Southern District of Texas led southwest border prosecutions during May with 3,996, double the 1,959 it recorded during April. The Southern District of California also recorded an increase. That district had the lowest number in April among the five border districts, but climbed past New Mexico’s prosecution numbers in May.

Other regions experienced declines. While Tucson, Ariz., had the largest number of recorded prosecutions during April (1,392), its May numbers fell to 1,149. Despite this drop, Tucson still had the third-largest total for criminal prosecutions in May, just below Del Rio, Texas. Las Cruces, N.M., as well as Laredo and Pecos/Alpine, Texas, also saw declines.

A full copy of the report can be found here.

 Megan Hadley is a staff reporter for The Crime Report. She welcomes readers’ comments.