(CN) - Federal prosecutors filed more than 50,000 immigration cases in the first six months of this fiscal year, and the busiest courts in the nation were in Houston, a new report says.
from the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University found the rate of prosecutions for immigration offenses was up 9.8 percent from 2012, with 50,468 such prosecutions reported across the U.S. during the first six months of the 2012-13 fiscal year. The federal fiscal year begins on Oct. 1.
"If this pace continues, more individuals will have faced criminal immigration charges this year - 100,936 - than at any other time in United States history," the clearinghouse said in a statement accompanying the report.
Immigration prosecutions in 2012 came to 91,941 - up 385 percent from 2003, the report said.
That, however, does not mean that illegal immigration has increased by that much. Prosecutors have great leeway in deciding whether to handle immigration violations as civil or criminal violations, or whether to file charges at all. Many Mexican violators are granted "voluntary repatriation" (VR) or de facto VR, and simply bused to the border and released.
So far this fiscal year, the federal court in Houston has handled 17,022 immigration prosecutions, followed by San Diego, with 13,379.
Arizona, the district with the most immigration prosecutions in FY 2012, has slipped to third place with 11,476. Arizona recorded the largest decline of any district in the nation, 22 percent, according to the report.
The rest of the Top 10 judicial districts for immigration prosecutions this year are the District Court in New Mexico, with 3,135; the Southern District of California with 1,906; the Southern District of Florida with 323; The Central District of California with 267; the Northern District of Texas with 175; the Eastern District of California with 150; and the District of Utah, with 135.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection accounted for 73.1 percent of the prosecutions, TRAC said. Those would be the garden-variety cases. More serious cases, involving criminal offenses, would more likely be handled by U.S. attorneys' offices.
The three most-frequently cited lead charges remained the same as in 2012: illegal entry, re-entry after deportation, and harboring aliens.
Simple illegal entry charges increased the most - up 20.4 percent from a year ago.
Aiding and abetting prosecutions declined by 74.4 percent.
Again, those figures, like the whole report, are more likely to show what Customs and ICE offices are doing, not what smugglers and undocumented immigrants are doing.