National Security

The US Correctional System’s Illegal Immigrant Population

“Nearly 95 percent of confirmed aliens in our federal prisons are here illegally. We know based on sentencing data that non-citizens commit a substantially disproportionate number of drug-related offenses, which contributes to our national drug abuse crisis.”

Last month, the Alien Incarceration Report Fiscal Year 2017 from the Departments of Justice (DOJ) and Homeland Security (DHS) found that more than one in five of the total individuals imprisoned in this country were not born in the United States. The report also indicates that 94 percent of foreign nationals in the custody of either the Federal Bureau of Prisons or the U.S. Marshals Service entered the U.S. illegally.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement:

“The American people deserve a lawful system of immigration that serves the national interest. But at the border and in communities across America, our citizens are being victimized by illegal aliens who commit crimes. Nearly 95 percent of confirmed aliens in our federal prisons are here illegally. We know based on sentencing data that non-citizens commit a substantially disproportionate number of drug-related offenses, which contributes to our national drug abuse crisis. The simple fact is that any offense committed by a criminal alien is ultimately preventable. One victim is too many. It’s time for Congress to enact the President’s immigration reform agenda so that we start welcoming the best and brightest while turning away drug dealers, gang members, and other criminals.”

According to the newly released report, there were nearly 60,000 known or suspected foreign nationals in federal prisons at the end of the 2017 Fiscal Year. This includes 39,455 foreign nationals who are in Bureau of Prisons (BOP) custody and 19,311 foreign nationals under U.S. Marshals Service (USMS) supervision.

Of those nearly 60,000 known or suspected foreign nationals in federal prisons, approximately 37,557 have been confirmed to be foreign nationals by the Immigration and Customs (ICE) Enforcement while the other more than 21,000 foreign-born inmates are still under ICE investigation.

Of the 37,557 confirmed foreign nationals, a total of 35,334 inmates identified by ICE are illegal aliens, making up nearly 95 percent of all foreign nationals in federal prisons. This includes 92 percent of foreign nationals in BOP custody and 97 percent of foreign nationals in USMS custody.

Of the 37,557 confirmed foreign nationals, a total of 35,334 inmates identified by ICE are illegal aliens, making up nearly 95 percent of all foreign nationals in federal prisons.

DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen also demanded immediate pro-American immigration reforms be passed by the GOP-led Congress:

“While the administration is working diligently to remove dangerous criminal aliens from our streets, this report highlights the fact that more must be done. We will continue to pursue President Trump’s immigration priorities, including securing the border, enhancing interior enforcement, and pursuing a merit-based immigration system, but Congress must act immediately to adopt obvious solutions to strengthen DHS and DOJ efforts to confront dangerous criminal aliens.”

These Figures Do Not Include State and Local Prisons or Jails

The report did not include information on incarcerations in state prisons or local jails. “State and local facilities do not routinely provide DHS or DOJ with comprehensive information about their inmates and detainees – which account for approximately 90 percent of the total U.S. incarcerated population,” the report said.

Illegal criminal aliens, non-citizens who commit crimes, are a growing threat to public safety and national security, as well as a drain on scarce criminal justice resources.

In 1980, the federal and state prisons housed fewer than 9,000 illegal criminal aliens. Today, about 55,000 criminal aliens account for more than one-fourth of prisoners in Federal Bureau of Prisons facilities.

The estimated cost of incarcerating illegal criminal aliens at the federal level is estimated at $1.5 to $1.6 billion per year. That cost only includes expenses in the federal prison system and the amount of money paid to state and local detention facilities in the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program (SCAAP). It does not include the costs of incarceration at the state and local level, nor does it include the related local costs of policing and the judicial system related to law enforcement against criminal aliens.

Exponentially Growing Numbers

In 1980, the federal and state prisons housed fewer than 9,000 illegal criminal aliens. Today, about 55,000 criminal aliens account for more than one-fourth of prisoners in Federal Bureau of Prisons facilities. When you take into consideration the State and Local correctional systems, that number climbs to about 297,000 illegal criminal aliens incarcerated in state and local prisons. That number represents about 16.4 percent of the state and local prison population.

Ninety-two percent, or $1.71 billion, of the $1.87 billion spent on such incarcerations last year came from states. The other eight percent just $161 million was paid for by federal-government reimbursements administered through the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program (SCAAP), for which funding has fallen sharply over the past decade.

“The declining funds have led to a situation where many counties are choosing to opt out of SCAAP reimbursement, since it only pays a fraction of the costs associated with incarcerating illegal aliens,” Jay Bates, a Texas Tech University School of Law graduate and freelance researcher states.

Because many state and local jurisdictions refuse to participate in SCAAP, the cost of holding inmates is far higher than the federal program’s figures suggest. In 2013, for instance, then-Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst, R-TX, calculated that Texas had imprisoned 130,000 illegal immigrants over the previous two years, at a cost of $137 million, almost as much as the federal government sets aside for reimbursements across the country.

Many Criminal Aliens Are Released Back Into Society To Commit Additional Crimes

A Congressional Research Service report released in August 2012 found that over a 33-month period, between October 2008 and July 2011, more than 159,000 illegal aliens were arrested by local authorities and identified by the federal government as deportable but nevertheless released back onto the streets. Nearly one-sixth of those same individuals were arrested again for new crimes.

One of the glaring factors when researchers looked at the data was the share of incarcerated population comprised of illegal criminal aliens was generally higher than the share of the estimated illegal alien population in a given state. Looking at California, for example, the estimated 2,365,000 illegal aliens in California represent 7.1 percent of the state’s overall population.

Compare that to the 12.7 percent illegal criminal alien population in the state correctional system. Nationally, the estimated 11,920,000 illegal aliens in 2010 represented 3.9 percent of the overall population compared to the 5.4 percent criminal alien incarceration rate. This difference in percentages demonstrates that the percentage of illegal aliens in prison for various crimes is disproportionately large.

This past October, the Trump administration announced it was seeking several major changes to the country’s immigration system, as the president pushes forward with his plans for a wall along the Mexico border. The requests included additional crackdowns on “sanctuary cities” that protect illegal immigrants, reducing the number of incoming refugees, and calling for 10,000 more Customs and Border Patrol agents.

The President’s proposals were well received by many outside of the mainstream press and the Democrat party.

A recent national survey commissioned by America First Policies reflects the American voters’ support for law enforcement solutions for illegal immigration, as well as merit-based reforms to the legal immigration system.

As of December 1, almost five months after the measure passed the House in a bipartisan vote, the Senate has yet to take up this bill that would toughen penalties for illegal aliens who re-enter the country after being deported.

“Looking closely at reforms proposed by the presidential administration and Congress, we found strong support across the ideological spectrum for reforms to our immigration system, especially reforms that are based on enhanced law enforcement and the merit of individuals,” said Brian O. Walsh, president of America First Policies.

In the area of law enforcement solutions for illegal immigration, 82 percent of survey respondents said they support Kate’s Law, named after Kate Steinle, who was shot and killed in 2015 in San Francisco by an illegal immigrant who had seven previous felony convictions and had been deported to Mexico five times. Kate’s Law was passed by the House in late June and strengthens sentencing penalties for illegal immigrants who had previously been deported as well as strengthens laws against illegal immigrants who commit crimes in the United States.

As of December 1, almost five months after the measure passed the House in a bipartisan vote, the Senate has yet to take up this bill that would toughen penalties for illegal aliens who re-enter the country after being deported. Although not yet voted on, Kate’s Law has strong support with 92% of Republican, 75% of Democrat, and 82% of Independent survey respondents saying they support the law.

Other key findings in the area of law enforcement solutions include:

  • 76 percent of voters said they support increasing the number of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers to protect public safety and national security.
  • 75 percent support President Trump’s effort to target MS-13 and other violent gangs and cartels.
  • 64 percent support the No Sanctuary for Criminals Act, which would cut some federal grants to cities that refuse to turn over criminal illegal aliens.
  • In the area of merit-based reforms to the legal immigration system, 73 percent would support a new requirement that incoming immigrants must be able to support themselves financially.

Support for President Trump’s immigration reform and his efforts to stem the tide of illegal criminal aliens entering the country and ending up in the nation’s correctional systems should get a boost from the dissemination of this report.

The opinions expressed here by contributors are their own and are not the view of OpsLens which seeks to provide a platform for experience-driven commentary on today's trending headlines in the U.S. and around the world. Have a different opinion or something more to add on this topic? Contact us for guidelines on submitting your own experience-driven commentary.
Jon Harris

Jon Harris is a former Army NCO, Sergeant Morales Club member, civilian law enforcement officer, and defense contractor with over 30 years in the law enforcement community. He is published in Army Trainer Magazine, authored regular columns in several newspapers, and is the author of the Cold War novel Breakpoint. His adventures as a security contractor in Afghanistan and Iraq can be found on www.dispatchfromdownrange.com. He holds a B.S. in Government and Politics and an M.S. in Criminal Justice and is currently completing his Juris Doctor degree.

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