Non-citizens accounted for 64 percent of all federal arrests in 2018, according to new data released on Aug. 22 by the Justice Department. The surge was driven largely by immigration-crime arrests, which have soared to the highest level in at least two decades.
Federal authorities conducted 108,667 arrests for immigration crimes in 2018, up more than five times from the 20,942 arrests in 1998. Immigration arrests accounted for 95 percent of the total increase in the number of federal arrests over the past 20 years, the data shows.
That data also shows a flip in the percentage of arrests of noncitizens compared to arrests of U.S. citizens. In 1998, arrests of citizens accounted for 63 percent of the total arrests. By 2018, arrests of noncitizens had grown to 64 percent of the total.
In a press release accompanying the data, the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) noted that while noncitizens accounted for 7 percent of the U.S. population, they committed 24 percent of all federal drug arrests, 25 percent of all federal property arrests, and 28 percent of all federal fraud arrests.
President Donald Trump campaigned on a promise to enforce and strengthen the nation’s immigration laws. While the total number of immigration arrests in 2018 reached the highest level over the 20-year period, the total number of arrests in 2017 was the lowest in 10 years. The increase in total arrests in 2018 was fueled almost entirely by immigration arrests.
While the report doesn’t separate legal aliens from illegal aliens, federal incarceration statistics show that 93 percent of aliens in federal custody in 2018 were illegal.
Noncitizens from Mexico and Central America accounted for 94 percent of the immigration arrests in 2018. Arrests of noncitizens from Central America soared 160 percent compared to 2017, while arrests of those from Mexico grew 48 percent. Notably, federal authorities arrested more Mexican nationals in 2018 than U.S. citizens.
“Federal arrests of Central Americans rose more than 30-fold over two decades, from 1,171 in 1998 to 39,858 in 2018,” the BJS stated.
Further highlighting the role of immigration enforcement in the arrest statistics, the BJS statement noted that the portion of all arrests that occurred in the “five federal judicial districts along the U.S.-Mexico border (out of 94 judicial districts nationwide)” has nearly doubled over the course of two decades from 33 percent to 65 percent.
“In 2018, a quarter of all federal drug arrests took place in these five districts,” according to the BJS statement.
“The number of Central Americans arrested in these five districts almost tripled in one year, rising from 13,549 in 2017 to 37,590 in 2018.”
In terms of prosecutions, more than 78 percent of noncitizens were prosecuted for illegal reentry, alien smuggling, and misuse of visas. The most common prosecutions of noncitizens outside of immigration-related offense dealt with drugs, at 13 percent of the total, and fraud, at 4 percent.