DOJ Report Highlights ‘Significant Population’ of Incarcerated Aliens

WASHINGTON (CN) – The Justice Department has released a breakdown of immigrants currently held in federal custody, complying with an executive order from January aimed at increasing deportations of people who commit crimes while in the country illegally.

According to the data released on Tuesday, Bureau of Prisons facilities house more than 45,000 people who were born in other countries, though nearly 4,000 of those are U.S. citizens.

Of those who are not, 54 percent have been ordered removed from the United States while an additional 33 percent are still waiting for the results of an Immigration and Customs Enforcement investigation into their removal status, according to the Justice Department.

The data does not indicate how many of the foreign-born non-citizens were in the country illegally when they were arrested.

More than 5,000 people held in federal prisons who are not U.S. citizens are still waiting on immigration courts to determine whether they should be allowed to remain in the country. Backlogs in immigration courts are a widely recognized problem, with the average criminal immigration case pending for more than 800 days, according to data maintained by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University.

The government funding agreement Congress reached earlier this week sets aside $20 million that the Trump administration can use to hire 10 immigration judge teams in an attempt to speed up decisions on deportations.

The numbers released by the Justice Department show that foreign-born non-citizens make up roughly 22 percent of the more than 188,000 people held in federal custody.

The Trump administration’s position on deporting people who commit crimes while in the country illegally has been starkly different than that of the Obama administration. Fitting with then-candidate Donald Trump’s hard-line campaign talk on immigration, the Trump White House has called for the deportation of people so much as charged with a crime while in the country illegally.

“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 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.”

In addition to the prisoner demographics the Justice Department provided on Tuesday, the department detailed new steps it is taking to further provide information about immigrants held in federal custody. The United States Marshals Service has started providing Immigrations and Customs Enforcement with data on foreign-born detainees in federal pretrial detention, with the Justice Department promising to provide a status update once the new data sharing is analyzed.

It also has started work on a program to gather the same information it released on Tuesday for immigrants held in state and local prisons, according to the Justice Department press release.

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