Immigration courts have authorized the deportation of approximately 12 percent of inmates now incarcerated with the Bureau of Prisons, according to figures released Tuesday by the Justice Department.
Of the approximately 189,000 federal inmates in BOP custody, the data shows 41,554 are foreign nationals and another 3,939 were foreign-born but became U.S. citizens. Of those, final deportation orders have been issued for 22,541 foreign-born inmates, so they will be deported from the country once they complete their prison sentences.
The Justice Department statistics do not indicate the immigration status of the inmates, meaning there is no way to distinguish how many of those now in custody were in the country illegally at the time they were arrested, compared to those who had visas or other authority to be in the U.S.
But immigration-related arrests comprise nearly half of all arrests made by federal authorities.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions pointed to the data as evidence of a need to tighten security at the border.
“Illegal aliens who commit additional crimes in the United States are a threat to public safety and a burden on our criminal justice system,” Mr. 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.”
The DOJ data indicates that immigration authorities are investigating another 13,886 inmates for possible removal from the United States, and 5,101 inmates have ongoing immigration removal cases in which a determination has not yet been reached by the court.
President Trump ordered the new data as part of his immigration plans, saying the public needs a better sense for how much of an impact illegal immigration in particular plays in public safety.
For years, analysts have struggled to quantify that impact.
The Justice Department also plans to work with the Department of Homeland Security to eventually collect similar immigration data on inmates incarcerated at state prisons and local jails.
Texas has added its own data to the debate, releasing a report detailing more than 220,000 criminal aliens who’d been booked into Texas jails since June 30, 2011.
Among those who’d had their cases heard, Texas notched more than 263,000 total convictions, including nearly 500 for homicide, 240 for kidnapping, more than 26,000 for assault and tens of thousands of drug and theft convictions.
The Texas Department of Public Safety said about two-thirds of those aliens convicted were in the country illegally.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton told The Washington Times the numbers capture the extent of the problem.
“It demonstrates that these aren’t just made up things,” he said. “That’s a lot of arrests, for some serious crimes.”
— Stephen Dinan contributed to this report.