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by Elizabeth Nolan Brown
Spike and drop. Last year saw a “sharp decline” in criminal immigrant prosecutions, according to the latest data from the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University. After spiking drastically in 2018, prosecutions are back down to Obama-era levels (which is still a lot).
The three major immigration enforcement agencies—Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), all housed within the Department of Homeland Security—can directly launch only civil enforcement actions; they must refer potential criminal to the U.S. Department of Justice. At that point, it’s up to federal prosecutors to decide whether to pursue charges. “Trends for referred cases have been driven largely by CBP rather than by ICE or USCIS,” according to TRAC, which has long monitored month-by-month and year-over-year enforcement of federal law.