The U.S. Justice Department said Friday it prosecuted a record number of immigration-related criminal cases over the last year.
Newly released figures show more than 25,000 people were charged with illegal re-entry into the U.S. in fiscal year 2019, an 8.5 percent increase over the same period the previous year. Nearly 90,000 defendants were charged with illegal entry in 2019, a more than 18 percent jump over the year before. And nearly 4,300 were charged with migrant smuggling in 2019, a 15.4 percent increase from the prior fiscal year.
Despite the increases, the numbers, all record highs, represent a small fragment of the nearly 1 million unauthorized border crossings in fiscal year 2019, which started in October 2018.
The previous highs for illegal entry and re-entry were set during the Obama administration, while the last record for smuggling cases was reached during the administration of George W. Bush.
After recently making policy changes to subject more border crossers to criminal rather than civil prosecutions, the Trump administration is now preparing to collect DNA samples from immigrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border and other immigrants who have been detained.
Senior Trump administration officials said on October 3 the Justice Department was drafting a regulation that would give immigration officers the authority to collect samples for entry into an FBI DNA database that contains samples from people charged with serious crimes.
The action has raised concerns among immigration and privacy advocates, who say collecting DNA from immigrants who have not committed crimes would be a serious violation of their privacy and civil liberties.