Right Opinion

5 Federal Courts on Mexican Border Lead Nation in Criminal Convictions

Terence Jeffrey · Apr. 3, 2019

The five federal court districts that sit along the U.S.-Mexico border were the top five districts in the country for the number of defendants they convicted and sentenced to imprisonment in fiscal 2018, according to data published by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts.

The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas ranked No. 1. It convicted 8,179 criminal defendants and sentenced 7,126 of them to imprisonment in the last fiscal year.

It was followed by the Southern District of Texas (6,140/5,939), the Southern District of California (5,723/5,470), the District of Arizona (4,731/4,378) and the District of New Mexico (3,979/3,923).

The combined jurisdictions of these five federal district courts cover the U.S.-Mexico border from the Pacific to the Gulf of Mexico.

The other five U.S. District Courts that rounded out the top 10 were the Southern District of Florida (2,279/2,104), the Northern District of Texas (1,504/1,431), the Middle District of Florida (1,568/1,388), the Southern District of New York (1,369/1,283) and the Central District of California (1,141/946).

The 7,126 criminals convicted and sentenced to imprisonment by the Western District of Texas in fiscal 2018 were more than five times the 1,283 convicted and sentenced to imprisonment by the Southern District of New York.

In fiscal 2018, according to Table D-7-1 published by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, a total of 79,704 criminal defendants had their cases disposed of by U.S. District Courts.

Of these, only 6,595 — or 8.3 percent — were not convicted. That included 6,275 whose cases were dismissed, 237 who were acquitted in a jury trial and 83 who were acquitted in a bench trial.

The other 73,109 criminal defendants were convicted and sentenced to some type of penalty. Of these, 1,330 were only fined, and 6,437 were released under supervision and 65,342 were sentenced to imprisonment.

In the nation-leading Western District of Texas, the court disposed of the cases of 8,470 defendants. Of these, only 291 — or 3.4 percent — were not convicted. These included 273 whose cases were dismissed, 14 who were acquitted in a jury trial and 4 who were acquitted in a bench trial.

The 8,179 defendants who were convicted and sentenced in the Western District of Texas included 10 who were only fined, 1,043 who were released under supervision and 7,126 who were sentenced to imprisonment.

The most common alleged offenses in the Western District of Texas, not surprisingly, were immigration-related, according to Table D-9-1 published by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts. Of the 8,470 defendants whose cases the court disposed of in fiscal 2018, 4,995 were categorized as “improper reentry by an alien.” Another 860 were described as “other immigration offenses.”

Other defendants whose cases were disposed of by the Western District of Texas, however, included 772 cases involving alleged non-marijuana-related drug offenses; 727 alleged marijuana-related offenses; 337 alleged offenses involving firearms or explosives; 306 alleged cases of fraud; 82 alleged sex offenses; 47 alleged assaults; 46 alleged cases of burglary, larceny or theft; and 17 alleged robberies.

There is a historical lesson to be learned from this data.

In fiscal year 2000, according to Table 2 in the United States Attorneys’ Annual Statistical Report for that year, U.S. district courts found 57,746 criminal defendants convicted of crimes. The five top districts that year for defendants found guilty were the Western District of Texas (4,129), the Southern District of Texas (3,984), the Southern District of California (3,960), Arizona (3,177) and the Southern District of Florida (2,047).

New Mexico finished sixth (1,689).

In fiscal 2010, according to Table 2 in that year’s U.S. Attorneys’ report, U.S. district courts found 81,934 defendants were convicted of crimes. The top five districts that year were the Southern District of Texas (8,406), the Western District of Texas (8,218), Arizona (5,715), the Southern District of California (4,773) and New Mexico (3,905).

Southern Florida dropped to sixth (2,570).

The lesson: The political leaders of this nation have known for years that the sort of criminal activity that is prosecuted in federal courts — as demonstrated by the government’s own data on federal court convictions — is disproportionately focused along the nation’s southern border.

And they have not fixed it.

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