Criminal Charges for Immigration Violations

The dramatic growth in the prison population in this country is due, in part, to the rising number of offenders sentenced to federal prison for violations of immigration law. In fact, according to PEW Research, between 1992 and 2012, the number of immigration offenders sentenced in federal courts more than doubled, rising from 36,564 cases to 75,867. During the same period, the number of unlawful reentry convictions increased from 690 cases in 1992 to 19,463 in 2012 – an increase that accounts for nearly half (48%) of the growth in the total number of offenders sentenced in federal courts over that time period. By contrast, the second fastest growing type of conviction—for drug offenses—accounted for 22% of the growth.

Charges of federal immigration crimes can include the following:

  • Entering or attempting to reenter the U.S. illegally more than once
  • Attempting to reenter the U.S. after deportation
  • Falsifying immigration documents

Pew Research also reports that most immigrants charged with unlawful reentry receive a prison sentence, saying:

On average, the sentence length for these offenders was about two years. As the number of offenders sentenced in federal courts for unlawful reentry increased, so too did the number of immigration offenders incarcerated in federal prisons. Between 1998 and 2010 alone, growth in the number of immigration offenders accounted for 56% of the increase in federal prison admissions.

One of the primary reasons for the dramatic increase in unlawful reentry convictions and prison sentences is the amped up enforcement effort from the U.S. Border Patrol that began in 2005. Prior to that time, immigrants who were apprehended at the border were generally allowed to voluntarily return to Mexico—without any penalty. Since 2005, however, Border Patrol has reduced voluntary returns for immigrants and has increased the use of other strategies, including:

… criminally charging immigrants apprehended at the border with unlawful reentry and increasing the use of expedited removals (which do not require a judicial review). And for those immigrants who are apprehended at the border and removed, the Border Patrol has used remote repatriation as an additional strategy, sending deported immigrants to border ports many miles away from where they were apprehended, or, in the case of Mexican nationals, repatriating immigrants into the interior of Mexico.

Moreover, many immigrants convicted of unlawful reentry in recent years have been processed under a Border Patrol program called “Operation Streamline,” which allows up to 40 unauthorized immigrants charged with unlawful reentry to be prosecuted at the same time.

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Contact a Criminal Defense Lawyer

Because immigration charges are processed through the federal criminal court, it is important to contact a lawyer who understands not only immigration laws, but criminal laws and procedures as well. At Keller Criminal Defense Attorneys, our Minneapolis criminal defense attorneys represent clients facing federal criminal charges, such as unlawful reentry, drug trafficking and other drug charges, fraud, counterfeiting, forgery, and extortion.

We will help you deal with your immigration charges, as well as any other criminal charges that you are facing. We maintain constant communication, via phone and email, and treat all of our clients with the utmost respect and dignity. Moreover, we are available to our clients any time, day or night, to handle any pressing legal concerns.

If you are facing immigration criminal charges, contact our office at (952) 913-1421 to schedule a free consultation with one of our Minneapolis criminal defense lawyers.


Max Keller has won countless jury trial cases involving misdemeanors and felonies, sex crimes, and DWI’s. He is a member of the Minnesota Society for Criminal Justice, which only allows the top 50 criminal defense attorneys in the state as members. Max is a frequent speaker at CLE’s and is often asked for advice by other defense attorneys across Minnesota.

Years of Experience: Approx. 20 years
Minnesota Registration Status: Active
Bar & Court Admissions: State of Minnesota Minnesota State Court Minnesota Federal Court 8th Circuit Federal Court of Appeals State of Maryland

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