DOJ: One in Four Federal Inmates Is Foreign-Born

Justice Dept. says cost of incarcerating non-citizens in federal prisons exceeds $1.2 billion

by Brendan Kirby | Updated 03 May 2017 at 7:56 AM

Nearly a quarter of the inmates in federal prisons were born outside the U.S., and more than half of those have final deportation orders, the Department of Justice said Tuesday.

The Justice Department published statistics on the prison population to comply with directives in President Donald Trump’s January executive order overhauling the immigration system.

“Illegal aliens who commit additional crimes in the United States are a threat to public safety and a burden on our criminal justice system.”

The foreign-born prison population as of March 25 totals 45,493, or 24 percent of all federal inmates. Of that group, 3,939 now are American citizens. That leaves 41,554 inmates who remain citizens of foreign countries. Some 22,541 of them, or 54.4 percent, have final orders to be deported once they’ve completed their sentences. Another 33.4 percent, 13,886, are under investigation by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents for possible deportation.

“Illegal aliens who commit additional crimes in the United States are a threat to public safety and a burden on our criminal justice system,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a prepared statement. “This is why we must secure our borders through a wall and effective law enforcement, and we must strengthen cooperation between federal, state and local governments as we strive to fulfill our sacred duty of protecting and serving the American people.”

A small number of prisoners — 26, or .1 percent of all foreign-born inmates — have been granted asylum, while another 5,101 have been targeted by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for deportation but are fighting it.

Even after subtracting out foreign-born prisoners who now are U.S. citizens, the federal prison population still is about 22 percent immigrant.

Foreign-Born Federal Prisoners
Federal inmates born outside United States
CategoryNumber
Deportation ordered22.5K
Under ICE investigation13.9K
Deportation pending5.1K
U.S. citizens3.9K
Granted asylum26
Total45.5K
Source: Department of Justice

“It is a startling percentage, even when you consider some of these are people who are incarcerated for immigration violations,” said Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies at the Center for Immigration Studies. “These high numbers show you there is a nexus between illegal immigration and crime.”

The Justice Department did not provide a breakdown of the crimes for which the immigrants are serving time. But separate data collected by the U.S. Sentencing Commission offers a snapshot. In fiscal year 2015, the most recent available, federal judges sentenced 29,166 non-citizens. Some 66 percent of prisoners were serving time for immigration violations.

Other common charges against immigrants included drug trafficking, drug possession, fraud, and firearms offenses.

Using the average cost per inmate in the federal prison system, the expense of incarcerating non-citizens is more than $1.2 billion a year.

“It’s a cost that can be reduced if we do a better job of controlling immigration, especially illegal immigration,” Vaughan said.

David Cross, a spokesman for Oregonians for Immigration Reform, said he was ecstatic about the Justice Department’s move toward transparency.

“I’m very excited about it,” said Cross, who has been collecting data about the immigrant population in the state prison system for years. “This really will hold people accountable if they have these statistics.”

The U.S. Marshals Service since April 5 has been providing ICE officials with daily reports of foreign-born pretrial detainees, according to the Justice Department. Officials said ICE expects that its analysis of the data will soon be complete.

The department also indicated it intends to expand the collection of data on immigrants in state prisons and local jails, where no program currently exists.

Vaughan said she expects so-called "sanctuary" jurisdictions to resist those data-collection efforts.

"They don't want to know, and they won't want anyone else to know … They want that to be a secret," she said.

  1. Bureau of Prisons
  2. Department of Justice
  3. Illegal Immigration
  4. immigration
  5. Jeff Sessions
You Might Also Like...