DOJ: 56% of Federal Arrests in 2020 Took Place in 5 Judicial Districts Along U.S.-Mexico Border

By Terence P. Jeffrey | May 26, 2022 | 3:41pm EDT
The U.S.-Mexico border near Yuma, Ariz., on May 20, 2022. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
The U.S.-Mexico border near Yuma, Ariz., on May 20, 2022. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

(CNSNews.com) - Fifty-six percent of all federal criminal arrests in fiscal 2020 took place in the five federal judicial districts that sit along the U.S.-Mexico border, says a new report from the U.S. Department of Justice.

There are 94 federal judicial districts in the United States, five of which cover the U.S.-Mexico border. These include California Southern, which encompasses the California border with Mexico, Arizona, which encompasses the Arizona border with Mexico; New Mexico, which encompasses the New Mexico border with Mexico; and Texas Western and Texas Southern, which cover the Texas border with Mexico.

“More than half (56%) of arrests in FY 2020 were in the five federal judicial districts along the U.S.-Mexico border,” says “Federal Justice Statistics, 2020,” published this month by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, a division of the Department of Justice.

Map published in "Federal Justice Statistics, 2020," Bureau of Justice Statistics, U.S. Department of Justice.
Map published in "Federal Justice Statistics, 2020," Bureau of Justice Statistics, U.S. Department of Justice.

In fiscal 2020, which ran from October 2019 through September 2020, U.S. marshals processed a total of 120,112 arrests. Of these, 67,361—or 56.08 percent—were in the five judicial districts along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Among those five border districts, the greatest number of arrests took place in the Texas Southern district, where marshals processed 25,270 arrests. That equaled 21.0 percent of the national total of 120,112.

The second greatest number of arrests was in Arizona, where marshals processed 15,852 arrests, which equaled 13.2 percent of the national total of 120,112.

The third greatest number of arrests was in the Texas Western district, where marshals processed 11,901 arrests, which equaled 9.9 percent of the national total of 120,112.

The fourth greatest number of arrests was in California Southern (9,123 or 7.6 percent); and the fifth greatest number was in New Mexico (5,215 or 4.3 percent).

Table 2 published in "Federal Justice Statistics, 2020," Bureau of Justice Statistics, U.S. Department of Justice.
Table 2 published in "Federal Justice Statistics, 2020," Bureau of Justice Statistics, U.S. Department of Justice.

“Defendants adjudicated in U.S.-Mexico border districts had a higher conviction rate (97%) than defendants nonborder districts,” said the report.

Defendants convicted of federal offenses in the districts along the U.S.-Mexico border tended to serve shorter sentences than defendants convicted elsewhere in the country because more of them were convicted of immigration offenses, the report explained.

“Defendants convicted of violent offenses received a median sentence of 85 months in prison, while drug defendants received a median of 70 months and other public order defendants received a median of 60 months,” said the report. “The median prison term for immigration defendants convicted of a felony was 10 months. Defendants convicted and sentenced to prison in the five U.S.-Mexico border districts received a median sentence of 13 months, compared to a median of 57 months in other districts. This was due to the higher percentage of immigration cases in the border districts.”

Males charged with federal crimes were more likely to be foreign nationals (43 percent) than females charged with federal crimes (18 percent).

“Eighty-two percent of charged females were U.S. citizens,” said the report.

“Males who were charged were also more likely to be U.S. citizens (57%) than non-U.S. citizens (43%),” it said. “Other than the United States, the most common countries or regions of citizenship among male defendants were Mexico (31%), Central America (8%), and the Caribbean Islands (2%).”

Ninety-seven percent of the defendants adjudicated in the five districts along the border were convicted.

“Of the 71,126 defendants adjudicated in FY 2020, about 93% were convicted,” said the Bureau of Justice Statistics report.

“Nearly all defendants charge with immigration (98%), weapons (93%), or drug (93%) offenses were convicted,” it said.

“About 91% of adjudicated defendants pled guilty,” it said. “Two percent of defendants were adjudicated through a bench or jury trial. Defendants adjudicated in U.S.-Mexico border districts had a higher conviction rate (97%) than defendants in nonborder districts (90%).”

The Bureau of Justice Statistics report noted that the COVID-19 pandemic caused a significant decrease in arrests, charges and convictions in 2020.

“The coronavirus pandemic drove an 81% decline in arrests and 77% decline in cases charged from March to April 2020,” said the report.

“The coronavirus pandemic has had a significant effect on all stages of the federal criminal justice process, from arrest to imprisonment,” it said. “U.S. courts modified operations in 2020. Fewer persons were arrested, prosecuted, convicted, and sentenced to prison. The largest decline in arrests and cases occurred from March 2020 to April 2020.”

“The number of defendants charged in U.S. district courts dropped from 5,300 in March 2020 to 1,232 in April 2020, a 77% decline,” it said. “The number of defendants convicted in U.S. district courts declined 43% from March 2020 (5,295) to April 2020 (2,995). During that time, the number of defendants sentenced to prison decreased 70%, from 3,220 to 964.

“Comparing February 2020 (before the decline) to September 2020,” it said, “there were 40% fewer investigations in September 2020, about 53% fewer arrests, 10% fewer defendants charged, 33% fewer defendants convicted, and 33% fewer defendants sentenced to prison.”

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