April 10, 2017

Immigration offenses make up a growing share of federal arrests

Federal law enforcement agencies are making more arrests for immigration-related offenses and fewer arrests for other types of offenses – including drug, property and gun crimes – than they were a decade ago, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of new data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

Half (50%) of the 165,265 total arrests made by the federal government in fiscal 2014 – the most recent year for which statistics are available – were for immigration-related offenses, such as crossing the border illegally or smuggling others into the United States. A decade earlier, immigration-related offenses accounted for 28% of all federal arrests.

At the same time, arrests for drug crimes fell from 23% of the total in 2004 to 14% in 2014. Those for supervision violations, such as probation or parole infractions, fell from 17% to 14%. Arrests for property crimes, including fraud and embezzlement, declined from 11% to 8%. And arrests for weapon offenses, such as possession of an unregistered firearm, fell from 7% to 4%. 

The figures, released by the bureau in March, count all arrests made by the federal government, ranging from traditional law enforcement entities, such as the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), to less traditional ones, such as the Interior and Treasury departments. They do not include arrests made by state and local authorities, which make the vast majority of U.S. arrests each year (nearly 99% in 2014).

While the 2014 data do not necessarily reflect current trends, they highlight a growing focus on immigration offenses on the part of federal law enforcement agencies. One striking reflection of that shift is the emergence of DHS as the federal government’s leading arrester, surpassing DOJ in 2007.

In 2014, DHS made 59% of all federal arrests, up from 37% in 2004 (the earliest year for which data are available following the department’s establishment in 2002). By comparison, DOJ made 35% of all federal arrests in 2014, down from 48% a decade earlier. In fact, just one agency within DHS – Customs and Border Protection – made more arrests in 2014 (64,954) than all of the agencies within DOJ combined (58,265). DOJ agencies include the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Agency, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the U.S. Marshals Service.

The growth in arrests by Customs and Border Protection coincides with a significant staffing increase within the agency, particularly during the mid-to-late 2000s. Between 2004 and 2010, the number of Border Patrol officers almost doubled, rising from 10,819 to 20,558.

Together, DOJ and DHS account for the vast majority of all arrests made by the federal government. No other departments accounted for more than 1% of arrests in 2014, with Interior, Treasury and the U.S. Postal Service each making fewer than 1,300 arrests that year. (State and local law enforcement also made about 1,200 arrests for federal crimes in 2014.)

The federal government’s increasing focus on immigration offenses is evident in other aspects of the Bureau of Justice Statistics data.

In 2014, 61% of all federal arrests involved non-U.S. citizens, up from 43% in 2004. U.S. citizens, by contrast, accounted for 39% of all arrests in 2014, down from 57% a decade earlier. (Totals omit cases in which records are missing or unknown.)

The geographic distribution of federal arrests also shows the growing emphasis on immigration offenses. In 2014, 61% of all federal arrests – or more than 100,000 – occurred in just five federal judicial districts along the U.S.-Mexico border. In 2004, those five districts – one each in Arizona, California and New Mexico, plus two in Texas – accounted for 40% of federal arrests.

The annual totals used in this analysis are by federal fiscal year, which ends on Sept. 30 of the year cited. The data refer to the number of arrests made by the federal government, not to the number of people arrested, since individuals may be arrested more than once. (About 156,000 people were arrested for federal crimes in fiscal 2014; there were about 165,000 total federal arrests that year.) The data also don’t reflect the number of people who are ultimately prosecuted or convicted, since not all arrests result in prosecution or conviction.

In addition, arrest figures for immigration offenses are not the same as migrant apprehensions or deportations. Apprehensions refer to cases in which foreign nationals are caught in the U.S. without authorization and can include civil as well as criminal violations. Arrests refer to cases in which individuals are booked for criminal violations of federal immigration laws, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. (The number of apprehensions each year is far higher than the number of federal arrests for immigration offenses.) Deportations, meanwhile, refer to cases in which unauthorized immigrants are removed from the country.

Topics: Immigration, Unauthorized Immigration, Criminal Justice, Federal Government

  1. Photo of John Gramlich

    is a writer/editor at Pew Research Center.

  2. Photo of Kristen Bialik

    is a research assistant at Pew Research Center.


  1. Anonymous4 months ago

    I would just like to quote from bjs.gov paper that was probably used as one of the sources for this article..”Federal arrests decreased from 188,164 in scal year 2013 to 165,265 in scal year 2014. Arrests
    by federal law enforcement more than doubled between 1994 (80,450) and 2013, and then declined by 12% from 2013 to 2014 “…in fact the trend had been reducing since 2008-2009 when Obama came into power… the important statistics ” how many were charged” is significantly lower”

  2. Anonymous4 months ago

    This is so misleading it could be considered Fake News. Your last 2 paragraphs discredits it all. To be factual, how may people were arrested in 2004 and in 2014? How does that equate to arrests per office since the number of officers has doubled? I remember something about making up the facts to suit your point of view. This stinks. Pewwww.

  3. Anonymous4 months ago

    While I agree with the comment to present the data totals support the % changes what we CAN tell from this is that we are spending a GREAT deal law enforcement time, local jail costs, court costs, state/federal prison costs for people who have no business in our country.

    I do support the wall but an even more effective approach would cause self deportation of illegals faster and we wouldn’t need so many working in border patrol(or they could focus on drugs and crime). Its really simple…

    1)ENFORCE fines(which is already LAW) on companies who employ illegals….iirc its $1K first offense, $5K second and up to $25k 3rd offense(per illegal person) for the EMPLOYER, not the employee. Results in no ‘tragic’ media scene of an illegal being arrested that MSNBC or CNN can go stupid over… instead it goes after the employer.

    2)30% of all fine $ collected would to the US citizen who informed ICE of the illegals in employment. 50% of the $ goes toward ICE’s budget… 5% goes to a victims of Illegals fund and the remaining 15% goes to a voucher fund to help the ILLEGAL move out of country(they would need to be legally documented/registered, provide proof of departure and if found in country illegally again would serve minimum 4 yr sentence)

  4. Anonymous4 months ago

    So, stop the illegals and many federal officers will be FIRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRED.

  5. Anonymous4 months ago

    This type of reporting just reminds of horses and barn doors…

  6. Jack Kendrick4 months ago

    Good news! Let’s double down on these arrests!

    What they did not mention in this article is that in addition to violations of our immigration laws, most of the immigrants have committed other criminal offenses at the State and Local level. The Feds are not just randomly rounding up illegal aliens. They are specifically targeting illegal aliens who have committed crimes serious enough to land them in jail.

    We want these people out of our country!

  7. Anonymous4 months ago

    This is part of the same organization that heavily supports PBS and the garbage they now try to pass as “news”. Take it with a grain of salt!

  8. Anonymous4 months ago

    Simple answer Obama administration.

  9. Anonymous4 months ago

    2004 DHS doing what DHS is supposed to do (finally).

    I don’t see a problem with letting state and local LEO’s handle domestic issues. Maybe that number will get even higher after the last six years of in our face border invasions while DHS was busing in illegals under Obama.

    Finally we have leadership that’s busing them out.

  10. Bud Wood4 months ago

    A wall to keep people out is better than a wall to keep people in.

  11. Anonymous4 months ago

    There is reason to build the wall. I understand that bids are being taken for building the wall.

    Better than a wall to keep people in

  12. Anonymous4 months ago

    So what this piece is basically saying is no matter how many illegals we stop, arrest and otherwise stop the country is and will continue to be infested with them. And not to mention the waisted valuable wealth of our nation.

  13. Anonymous4 months ago

    Could it be that once an illegal alien crossed our boarders they committed a criminal act? Yes, and as soon as people realize their entry into our country without proper documentation . . . passport, etc. that they are criminal along with those who overstay their tourist/work/student Visa.

  14. Anonymous4 months ago

    The idiots selling this BS about illegals being a net benefit to the US these facts just destroy that lie.

    Couple more points.

    What is the added cost to taxpayers for the DOUBLING of the border patrol that would have been unnecessary if those Socialist/Democratic clowns would have simple enforced our dam laws?

    The cost of the fence is a drop in the bucket compared to the 10K border patrol agents, jails, judges and mayhem these fools have caused.

  15. Anonymous4 months ago

    This is only to be expected as many drug arrests involve illegals. Since the feds uphold our laws, unlike local LE, the illegals eventually face immigration charges. Recently had several arrest for meth distribution and stockpiling guns. Read more here: stormfront.org/forum/showthread.…

  16. Mark Rector4 months ago

    Where is the data? Percentages are not facts, they are “representational.” For example, if IBM made $10M profit in 2013 based upon $1B in revenue, and $11M profit in 2014 based upon $2B revenue, then deceptive media would report “IBM profit increased by 10%.”
    But the fact is, their profit actually declined from 1.0% of revenue to 0.55%.
    Same thing here: did the % of arrests for immigration offenses increase as *A Percentage* because there was a corresponding increase in arrests, or because there was a decrease in non-immigration-related arrests?
    Year 1 = 10 immigration offense arrests, with 20 non-immigration offenses = 33% of arrests are immigration-related.
    Year 2 = 10 immigration offenses, with 10 non-immigration arrests = 50% of arrests are immigration-related.
    Accurate reporting: “Immigration arrests did not change”
    Deceptive/typical reporting: The PERCENTAGE of immigration-related arrests increased by 67%.”
    In the example above:
    (i) there were in fact NO increases in immigration arrests.
    (ii) the ratio of immigration-related to non-immigration-related increased by 17 POINTS.
    (iii) Only be being deceptive and anti-mathematical are the “figures don’t lie” made into “but liars figure.”
    This “report” is along the lines of “liars figure” … unless we can review the actual data instead of these “representations of facts” (i.e. ‘lies’).
    That’s how blatant falsehoods are twisted into “news” by light-weight “journalists” – whose only concern is that the impression which they want to make is propagated throughout society, regardless of whether the ‘news’ is true or not.
    This has been going on for decades, and no MSM has ever attempted to report that actual news about “the news” that we read + watch. Several “Media Watch” types of organizations report on the reporters, but nobody actually cares about the real facts in today’s media or politico/social cultures.
    I am reminded of the promise, “They have asked for a lie, they will receive a Grand Delusion.”

    1. John Gramlich4 months ago

      Hi Mark, thanks for writing. The number of immigration arrests increased from 39,135 in 2004 to 81,881 in 2014. You can find this (and additional) information in the BJS report that’s linked in the analysis: bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/fjs1314.pdf.

  17. John Nixon4 months ago

    Illegals are the biggest threat to the US, only out done by liberals.

    1. Anonymous4 months ago

      Right on!!!

  18. Anonymous4 months ago

    This is an incomplete article. There needs to be info on the ACTUAL numbers of arrests. Percentages are only part of the data.

  19. william murphy4 months ago

    I could have told you the same thing just from reading my local newspaper despite the liberal news media’s tendency to conceal the immigration status of criminals. Ann Coulter’s book Adios America discusses the issue in depressing detail.

  20. Su Yu4 months ago

    Perhaps most federal crimes are committed by them?

    1. Dorje Drakpo4 months ago

      Two for the price of one.

    2. Doug Wiser4 months ago

      I worked in the federal prison system and 35%+ of the inmates in federal prisons were foreign prisoners. They were not doing prison time for illegal entry, they had to do something more serious to go to prison.

      The federal prisons in the southwestern states had populations closer to 50% foreign inmates and the vast majority of those were from Mexico. State prisons had similar numbers of illegal alien criminals in southern states.

      There are more than 100 federal prisons and many more state prisons nationwide. All these prisons are overcrowded and the reason for that is because of criminals from Mexico.

  21. Anonymous4 months ago

    How many of these are likely for violent crimes but the tag put on it is “immigration” because so many of the peeps are, well, illegals!

  22. Anonymous4 months ago

    I hope that this is just a start, keep at it.

  23. Anonymous4 months ago

    Overall too much time and money is being used for immigration related problems. Legal and illegal. This article again points to one issue. It is past time to close the doors and change the immigration policy in this country.

    1. Anonymous4 months ago

      The more immigration arrests the better for all statistics across the board.

    2. Anonymous4 months ago

      What justification is there for these undocumented border jumpers to remain in the USA with the protections of and benefits too American citizens? Not only did they disregard the sovereignty of our nation’s borders and thumbed their noses at our citizens tax burdens but they also hoped in the line ahead of well meaning legal immigrants who wish to follow the rules for citizenship in America.

  24. Anonymous4 months ago

    Only half? Quit shirking and get working.

  25. Anonymous4 months ago

    Most criminal arrests are done by the states, not the Feds. Few crimes are Federal, kidnapping, interstate fraud, etc.

    1. Anonymous4 months ago

      What’s your point? That the kidnapping & interstate fraud isn’t a problem?

  26. Anonymous4 months ago

    Most arrests are only a small percentage of the actual crimes taking place. These tells you how many illegal aliens are running around in the country.

    1. Dorje Drakpo4 months ago

      It is insane what has been allowed and it will take a while to begin to be a lawful nation again.

  27. Anonymous4 months ago

    I’m sure

  28. Anonymous4 months ago

    But we don’t have a problem…….or so they say.

    A casual reading says that not only are we being inundated with illegal immigration, the resources normally used for fighting violent crime are being directed at immigration enforcement- thus further degrading life in this country.

  29. Michael Wroblewski4 months ago

    Good, That’s a start to saving the USA as a sovereign nation

  30. Bob Terry4 months ago

    The article contends fewer arrests are being made in the area of drug, firearms and property crimes. Yet the article presents only percentages of the total. A raw number of arrests is given for 2014 but I don’t remember seeing a number of arrests for 2004. Is it possible that the total number of arrests have increased making the percentage smaller for drugs, firearms and property crimes but the number of arrests for these categories have remained constant or even increased. If the writer contends “fewer arrests” then we should see numbers and not percentages, I believe.

    1. John Gramlich4 months ago

      Hi Bob, thank you for the question. The number of federal arrests for drug, firearm and property crimes also declined between 2004 and 2014. There were 9,277 fewer drug arrests; 2,952 fewer firearm arrests; and 2,772 fewer property arrests. You can search all of the historical data through the BJS Federal Criminal Case Processing Statistics tool: bjs.gov/fjsrc.

      1. Anonymous4 months ago

        Wow, that’s great that the author took the time to address a valid question.