Federal convictions for transporting or harboring undocumented immigrants have surged in the current fiscal year at a pace that could mean a 37% increase over last year, according to a new report by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University. Data from the Justice Department show that in the first eight months of the fiscal year that ends in September, the government reported a record 3,894 new convictions. Monthly convictions with this lead charge reached an all-time high of 708 in January, far outpacing the previous high of 476 in January 2020 under former President Trump.
Historic data since fiscal 1987, the year following passage of the last major immigration reform legislation, which granted legal status to nearly 2.7 million unauthorized residents, show that convictions declined every year until leveling off at around 1,000 during the George H.W. Bush and first Bill Clinton terms. Numbers then began to climb, more than doubling by the end of Clinton's second term and peaking during George W. Bush's second term, in fiscal 2006. They again fell during the Obama presidency, then climbed under President Trump to 4,700 in 2020 and continued a rapid escalation under President Biden. Since fiscal 2018, almost three times as many of the convictions have been for transporting immigrants within the U.S., as opposed to smuggling them across the border. The report ranks to the 10 federal judicial districts with the highest relative rates of illegal transport and harboring convictions, led by Arizona and four other districts on the Mexico border. Among the 90 federal judicial districts within the 50 states, 67 districts plus the District of Columbia recorded at least one conviction with this as the lead charge since FY 2017. However, just 27 districts recorded at least 10 convictions, and just seven districts recorded 100 or more convictions during this period. These seven were the five southwest border districts plus the Southern District of Florida (Miami) and the Northern District of New York (Syracuse). "Despite the widespread distribution of undocumented immigrants across the nation, such convictions outside border and coastal districts are still relatively rare," the TRAC report found.